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Artist and upcycler Yinka Ilori wins LFA’s Nine Elms underpass contest

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Artist and designer Yinka Ilori has won the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) competition to design a £200,000 overhaul of Thessaly Road Railway Bridge in Nine Elms, south-west London – his second LFA win this year

The vintage furniture upcycler’s ‘Happy Street’ submission was chosen ahead of five rivals. The appointment comes just two months after Ilori and Pricegore won the LFA’s competition for a second landmark pavilion outside Dulwich Picture Gallery.

The other teams shortlisted in the Thessaly Road competition were ArchitectureDoingPlace, Jan Kattein Architects, De Rosee Sa, Farrer Huxley Associates and a collaboration between Peckham Coal Line architects Mesh Workshop, Scotland’s Bigg Design and London-based artist and designer Matthew McGuinness.

The competition, backed by Wandsworth Council, sought proposals to transform the ‘ugly and unwelcoming’ underpass into an attractive and user-friendly route for pedestrians and cyclists, creating a high-quality gateway to the Nine Elms Vauxhall regeneration zone. 

Ilori’s proposal – which was the favourite among local residents, school children and the public – will create an interactive and multi-sensory environment featuring brightly coloured panels and lights.

He said: ‘I am very excited to have won the competition and can’t wait to work with the community to bring Happy Street to life. I am very grateful to the LFA team and the local community around Thessaly Road for believing in Happy Street and am looking forward to bringing the rainbow to the underpass. This is a very special project with a very special community and I feel honoured to have been given this opportunity.’

LFA director Tamsie Thomson said: ‘The London Festival of Architecture uses its profile and platform to improve London by harnessing the city’s amazing architectural and creative talent. Yinka Ilori’s wonderful proposals demonstrate how a relatively simple concept has the power to transform places and people’s lives, and I’m so pleased that Wandsworth Council has shared our vision with such enthusiasm. I cannot wait to see the transformed Thessaly Road when it is unveiled in 2019.’

Wandsworth Council cabinet member for community services and open spaces, Steffi Sutters said: ‘This is a hugely exciting project to improve and rejuvenate a local thoroughfare. As well as bringing innovative art and colour to the street that will be enjoyed by all, I know that the local schoolchildren will be very happy with Yinka’s bright design as they find the underpass dark and scary in its current state.

‘I’m really looking forward to seeing the design come to life over the next year and thank all the local residents who took part in helping us to get this far.’

Thessaly Road connects the major thoroughfares of Nine Elms Lane and Wandsworth Road. The 1km-long road is closed to through-traffic but is a popular route for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Judges included Thomson; Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership head of culture Anne Mullins; Pam Alexander, chair of the Covent Garden Market Authority; Studio Myerscough founder Morag Myerscough; and Clare Richards, founder of Footwork.

Ilori will now receive £20,000 to further develop the winning design which will be installed in time for next year’s LFA.

Thessaly rd high res luke o'donovan (4 of 26)

Thessaly rd high res luke o’donovan (4 of 26)

Source: Luke O’Donovan

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