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Bisset Adams wins Thamesmead library contest

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Bisset Adams has been selected ahead of Adam Khan Architects and Keith Williams Architects in the competition to design a £5 million lakeside library within south-east London’s Thamesmead estate

The studio was chosen ahead of four rival bids – the other contenders were Architecture 00/Studio Weave and Norway’s Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter – to win the prestigious Peabody and Bexley Council-backed commission.

The appointment comes just months after Bisset Adams’ new home for Marylebone Library opened to the public. Other major library projects by the practice include the Guildhall Library, Blackpool Central Library, London Metropolitan Archives and the Ideas Store at Watney Market.

The RIBA-run competition called for ‘inspirational’ proposals for a ‘state-of-the-art’ library facility overlooking Southmere Lake – a short distance from the new Crossrail terminus at Abbey Wood.

The landmark project is part of Peabody’s larger £1.5 billion regeneration of the 1960s Brutalist housing estate, which featured in the film A Clockwork Orange.

The library will be constructed in Southmere Village and will kick off the programme’s 1,500-home first phase, masterplanned by Proctor & Matthews and Mecanoo.

The Thamesmead estate was constructed during the 1960s on the Erith and Plumstead Marshes. In 2014, Peabody purchased the site as part of ambitious plans to deliver 20,000 new homes within the wider area.

Proctor & Matthews and Mecanoo won planning for the first stage of the £1.5 billion transformation in October last year. The consented applications include detailed plans for a civic-led quarter with 525 new homes, known as Southmere Village, and outline plans for three other development areas delivering 1,000 homes – Binsey Walk, Coralline Walk and Sedgemere Road.

The shortlist

  • Adam Khan Architects
  • Architecture 00/Studio Weave
  • Bisset Adams
  • Keith Williams Architects
  • Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

The judging panel for the library included John Lewis, executive director for Thamesmead at Peabody; Andrew Matthews of Proctor & Matthews Architects; the RIBA’s competition architect adviser, John Whiles of Jestico + Whiles Architects; and Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Lewis said: ‘[This scheme and contest] highlights the level of investment and commitment both Peabody and the London Borough of Bexley are making to Thamesmead but, more importantly, it shows that this is not just about building new homes. This is about enhancing Thamesmead for the existing community, making a fantastic place to live, study, work and visit.

‘My thanks to all the practices that took the time to enter the competition. We had some really good, thoughtful concepts from a wide variety of firms. I look forward to working with Bisset Adams and the rest of the South Thamesmead team as the designs of the new space evolve. We hope to be ready for a planning submission in the Spring.’

Bisset Adams Director Iain Johnston said: ‘We wanted to create a design which tells a story about the lake and the environment. It’s a truly sustainable structure constructed from cross-laminated timber, which is left exposed to create a warm interior environment. We also wanted it to be fun. The concept was inspired by the swans nesting by the lakeside. We used the pattern of a swan’s nest as a texture for the perforated cladding of the cantilevered upper box, which faces out to the lake and created a “bed of reeds” for screening the children’s library from the main space. We hope it will be a very special place to learn, browse and study.

‘This is a project which is genuinely about collaboration: with the community; the library team; Peabody; and the architects creating the vision for the masterplan. We are very excited to be part of this next chapter in Southmere Village.’

The library competition featured no minimum turnover requirement and was intended to be open to a wide range of architects including young and emerging talents.

The studio will now work as part of the Southmere Village design team, led by Proctor & Matthews, to develop a detailed design for the library building. Peabody hopes to complete the project by summer 2021.

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