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Exclusive: Thamesmead library shortlist revealed

South thamesmead aerial photo high res
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Adam Khan Architects, Bisset Adams and Keith Williams Architects are among five teams shortlisted for a new £5 million lakeside library within south-east London’s Thamesmead estate

Architecture 00/Studio Weave and Norway’s Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter complete the shortlisted in the international contest, which is backed by housing association Peabody and the local authority, Bexley Council.

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

John Lewis, executive director Thamesmead at Peabody, said: ‘We would like to thank everyone who expressed an interest in working on this project. It is clear there are many talented practices who share our excitement about providing a brand new state-of-the-art library and civic building for Thamesmead.

‘We look forward to hearing more from the shortlist about their proposals. We’ll be working with the local community, the council, and design experts to make sure we get the best possible result for the area. As we approach Thamesmead’s 50th birthday in 2018, I hope this building will become an emblem of London’s new town finally fulfilling its potential.’

The landmark project is part of Peabody’s phased £1.5 billion regeneration of the 1960s housing estate, which notoriously featured in the film A Clockwork Orange. The library will be constructed in Southmere Village, which kicks off the programme’s 1,500-home first phase, masterplanned by Proctor & Matthews and Mecanoo, and will also feature spaces for learning, health, wellbeing and civic functions on its upper levels.

The Brutalist 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

Planned to complete in 2024, the scheme runs from Southmere Lake to the north and Abbey Wood station to the south. All four sites sit inside the boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich’s Thamesmead Housing Zones, forming part of the Greater London Authority’s £47.5 million investment into the area, and will be served by the new Crossrail (aka Elizabeth Line) station at Abbey Wood, which opens in December 2018.

Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners is meanwhile working on a wider ‘futures plan’ for the huge 1960s estate – effectively a 15-year vision for area (AJ 25.06.14).

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. Judges included representatives from Peabody, Bexley Council, Proctor & Matthews and John Whiles of Jestico + Whiles, who is acting as RIBA architect adviser to the scheme.

Q&A with John Lewis, executive director Thamesmead at Peabody

John Lewis

John Lewis

John Lewis

What is your vision for the new library and how will this contest achieve it?

We want to create a waterside civic building that lasts and is a source of pride for the local community. Having a building that gets noticed is important in itself because it will be in the heart of South Thamesmead’s cultural quarter. It will be what welcomes visitors to the lake who have arrived on the train. It is going to be built on the banks of Southmere Lake, close to the Crossrail station, close to new shops and homes, and over the lake from an arts centre.

Proctor & Matthews as master architects and the RIBA are going to help us balance the aesthetics, the functionality and features of the new building. It will need to have lots of natural daylight and be a warm, inspiring place of learning and wellbeing. The challenge is to make those links and get a cohesive result.

How will the new building relate to its surroundings?

We are not looking to build statement buildings for the sake of it; we want something that has longevity and to provide inspiration to people in Thamesmead. It will be a library for the 21st century, with creative space and using new technologies.

We are looking beyond aesthetics and thinking about how it connects to the wider residential and public realm assets – the homes, the shops, the streets and courtyards, the lake and the community facilities.

Southmere Village, phase one by Proctor and Matthews Architects and Mecanoo

Southmere Village, phase one by Proctor and Matthews Architects and Mecanoo

Southmere Village, phase one by Proctor and Matthews Architects and Mecanoo

The London Borough of Bexley are our partners in this – they are taking part in the process of selecting a firm to take the building to planning, and of course they will be leading on service provision. The council shares our vision for a high-quality civic building in this part of the town.

We also want to involve local people, capturing their views about how they want the building to look and feel, and also how they would use it, what services and features they want. We’ll have people living all around it and it is vital that they are engaged in the process and feel it is of inherent value to them.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We are seeking new ideas that fit well with the Proctor & Matthews designs of the wider area. Young and emerging architects, and upcoming talent with fresh thinking would be fantastic. There is no minimum turnover so we hope that will unlock an opportunity for people who may not have engaged with us before. Similarly, international firms from other countries are welcome to reach out and help us realise Thamesmead’s potential with a civic building of the future. Of course we welcome entries from our panel and the multitude of talented firms out there.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects be procured?

There are major commissions coming down the line which will encompass new mixed-use buildings, public realm improvements and green interventions. We’re also looking at bringing in design guides for leaseholders in the low-rise areas of refurbishment and change close to what we are calling our heritage towers. This will bring a sense of cohesion and consistency to the areas of change.

We’re also going to be looking at a significant commercial scheme at Crossquarter by the Elizabeth Line, which will be a combination of offices and multi-use flexible space – affordable rented commercial space by the station that is generating a lot of interest from businesses. We’ll be looking for a design team for that.

We will also have major schemes being brought forward on the other side of Thamesmead – in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. West Thamesmead Gateway has been designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, and Pitman Tozer has designed The Reach, which is 100 per cent affordable and is our first Thamesmead scheme. We are going to be looking at schemes, development partners and design teams within the Gateway and also in the Thamesmead Waterfront area. This has capacity for 11,500 homes and 1 million sq ft of commercial space. This is a big area for architects and the associated professions and we are looking forward to it. There is certainly the potential for more competitions down the line.

Southmere Village, phase one by Proctor and Matthews Architects and Mecanoo

Southmere Village, phase one by Proctor & Matthews Architects and Mecanoo

Southmere Village, phase one by Proctor & Matthews Architects and Mecanoo

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