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Inflatable floating venue wins Antepavilion 2 contest

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Thomas Randall Page and Benedetta Rogers have won the Architecture Foundation’s (AF) competition for a £25,000 floating ‘Antepavilion’ in Hackney, north-east London

The duo’s proposal for an inflatable performance venue was chosen ahead of schemes by Thomas Bates, Duman Studio, Max Dewdney Architects with No-To-Scale, and Kennedy Woods Architecture.

The competition invited artists, architects, designers and makers to draw up radical alternative visions for a large disused barge moored at Columbia and Brunswick Wharf on the Regent’s Canal.

The £25,000 project, backed by historic regeneration specialist Shiva, will transform the 19m-long 1934 vessel into a floating venue which will tour London’s waterways this summer. The shortlist was selected from more than 130 entries to the anonymous commission, now in its second year.

The winning scheme allows the barge’s superstructure to deflate in order to fit through the many low bridges and tunnels that line London’s canal network then reinflate, creating a pop-up performance space.

Jury chair and AF deputy director Phineas Harper said: ‘The jury were deeply impressed with the calibre and creativity of the finalists. Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers’ winning design is exhilarating and joyful, drawing upon the work of Jeffrey Shaw and Ant Farm.

‘The bold and experimental nature of the team’s proposed structure and the festive programme of events they envision along the length of the Regent’s Canal make it an exciting and worthy winner of the 2018 Antepavilion Commission.’

Among the shortlisted proposals were a ‘pop-up parliament’ debating area and a restaurant for homeless people. Thomas Bates’s proposal for a second, ‘buttyboat’ received an honourable mention.

Winner: Randall-Page Rogers

Winner: Randall-Page Rogers

Winner: Randall-Page Rogers

The disused barge, named Ouse, was one of two vessels created for Canal Transport in 1934 and is equipped with a diesel engine and rudder. The boat is moored outside Hoxton Docks on the south side of the canal opposite the towpath. Proposals were required to take account of canal bridges.

Columbia Wharf and Brunswick Wharf were originally home to the Gas Light and Coke Company, but were transformed into artist studios almost 20 years ago and are now known as Hoxton Docks. Artists based inside the complex include sculptor Owen Bullett, Dutch artist Magali Reus and 2016 Turner Prize winner Helen Marten.

The competition was judged by Mary Duggan, founder of Mary Duggan Architects; writer and curator Emily King; Theo Molloy of PUP Architects; Beth Hughes, head of architecture at the Royal College of Art; and Shiva founder Russell Gray.

The five shortlisted teams each received a share of a £3,000 fund and worked with structural engineer AKT II to develop their scheme’s realisation and construction strategy.

Thomas Randall Page and Benedetta Rogers will now receive a £10,000 prize fund, along with £15,000-worth of materials and labour to deliver their scheme, with support from AKT II.

Last summer the winner of the inaugural commission, PUP Architects, completed a habitable space disguised as an air vent on the Hoxton Docks rooftop.

The Shortlist

Air Draft by Randall-Page Rogers

Shortlisted: Randall-Page Rogers

Shortlisted: Randall-Page Rogers

Shortlisted: Randall-Page Rogers

Architect’s statement As much as canals changed London, London’s canals have changed, from conduits of industry and cargo to arteries of art, culture and leisure. Through this proposal we want to reflect upon this change.

Having spent her life hauling heavy loads, Ouse is in for a treat! We plan to give her a huge cargo but of something somewhat lighter – Air. With a boat for a father and an airship for a mother, Air Draft is an inflatable space for relaxation and performance. The lower of two membranes produces a soft playful landscape for lounging around on, and a second far lighter membrane provides shelter and enclosure.

Docked to Brunswick and Columbia Wharf, Air Draft adds to the current event space offer. Accessed off the existing deck, Air Draft provides a place for guests to kick off their shoes and lounge about in playful comfort.

When the membranes are deflated, Air Draft has ample clearance under even the lowest canal bridge. This provides the potential for Ouse and her new cargo to relocate and tour if desired. Viewed from the towpath Air Draft resembles a curiously overloaded cargo boat complementing and adding to the ensemble of playful and artistic structures.

Shortlisted: Max Dewdney Architects + No-To-Scale

Shortlisted: Max Dewdney Architects + No-To-Scale

Shortlisted: Max Dewdney Architects + No-To-Scale

Architect’s statement Pop-Up Parliament is a platform to host alternative events. Pop-Up Parliament inverts the Gothic interiors of Westminster Hall to transform the Ouse into an open-air structure with a light and transparent roof. Within the structure is a covered seating area with a built-in swap library and debating chamber to be used for a programmed series of events and talks that will focus on the spaces of decision-making, from polling booths to local and national party headquarters and the decline of the town hall.

The audience for the pavilion are primarily the local people of Haggerston. Pop-Up Pavilion will offer a space to the Hackney Youth Parliament to host debates over the summer. Local councillors Barry Buitekant, Jonathan McShane and Ann Munn will be invited to run their monthly surgeries within the structure.

It will be constructed out of sustainably sourced plywood timber for the main frame, with reclaimed timber decking, rope and transparent recyclable polycarbonate for the roof. The build process will involve a series of scaled modelling and 1:1 prototypes and detailing. The construction will invite the local participation of interested students from the adjacent Bridge Academy who will also be invited to perform on the opening night.

Travelling Restaurant to Tackle Hidden Homelessness by Kennedy Woods Architecture

Shortlisted: Kennedy Woods Architecture

Shortlisted: Kennedy Woods Architecture

Shortlisted: Kennedy Woods Architecture

Architect’s statement Pavilion architecture is too often wasteful, formalist and purposeless, directing designers’ energy away from real problems in society. Our Antepavillion turns this supposition on its head by creating a valuable space for a start-up social enterprise.

Our proposal is to convert the Ouse into a travelling supper-club for Fat Macy’s, a social enterprise tackling the hidden homelessness crisis. The concept is to create a nomadic, hidden space, concealed by a minimal roof form in the day, which dramatically opens each evening, capturing the attention of passers-by.

The proposal will create value in the following ways:

  • Purposeful: It will create real impact to people’s lives who are in need of help, while raising awareness about an important social issue.
  • Sustainable: An operator will maintain the structure by using it and reinvesting revenue into its upkeep so it won’t fall into disrepair.
  • Functional: The design creates a space to be used by people, both employees and visitors, for dinners, events and talks.
  • Political: It will raise awareness of the ‘hidden homeless’ crisis.

Let’s send a message to the Serpentine by creating a pavilion with social impact.’


Buttyboat by Thomas Bates

Shortlisted: Thomas Bates

Shortlisted: Thomas Bates

Shortlisted: Thomas Bates

Architect’s statement At the beginning of the 20th century, working narrowboats were operated and often constructed in pairs. The principal boat was powered by steam or diesel and the second boat was towed. The second boat was known as a buttyboat. The word ‘butty’ is an old mining word for ‘fellow or workmate’.

The proposal is to construct a second boat; a friend or fellow for Ouse. This buttyboat will be built on Ouse on large props and it will remain in its elevated construction position. The elevated boat will act as a timber canopy, forming a space underneath that can be used by those in the workshops, artists’ studios, and events space.

A tall, crane-like lantern will also be located on the barge to help define a small public space where people can gather. It also acts as a reminder of the crane that was located on Ouse during its working days.


Re-Ouse by Duman Studio

Shortlisted: Duman Studio

Shortlisted: Duman Studio

Shortlisted: Duman Studio

Architect’s statement The Regent’s canal from Islington to Mile End is highly varied in nature. To reflect the ever-changing requirements of this site, Re-Ouse fluctuates, evolves and transforms.

The design is characterised by two illuminated sculptural canopies, made from recycled white translucent sails. The movements of the canopies are reminiscent of the cranes which were once used to load cargo onto the boat. Similarly to the cranes, they pivot up and down from two axis.

Moored outside Victoria park in the summer, the Ouse can open up to become a bar or small cinema space. Outside Cyber Street it may lower its canopies to form a floating exhibition space, or perhaps it will float further down to Queen Mary’s University, with its blocks and canopies rearranged into an outdoor teaching space or debating chamber.

The four types of furniture blocks are to be positioned to complement the configuration of the canopies, which allows for the boat’s ever-evolving activities.

Interwoven together, these elements transform the Ouse into a harmonious machine of flowing parts – a seamless icon of local energy, breathing life and light once again into this historic boat and reawakening areas of London that for too long have been under-appreciated.

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