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PDP London wins Low Line contest to regenerate railway viaducts

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PDP London has won an international competition to design a sustainable masterplan for London’s Low Line

The scheme, inspired by New York’s High Line, is a proposed linear regeneration of a series of underused 19th-century railway viaducts running through Bankside, London Bridge and Bermondsey.

PDP London, formerly known as Paul Davis + Partners, was chosen ahead of shortlisted entries by Ludwig Willis Architects with Howard Miller Landscape; Matthew Halsall Design Studio with Civic Engineers; Weston Williamson + Partners with Arup and Exterior Architecture; and Madrid-based Gutiérrez-delaFuente Arquitectos.

In total, the contest attracted 82 entries from 32 different countries.

PDP London’s winning ‘Low Line Commons’ concept – drawn up with Macfarlane and Associates Landscape Architects, Greengage sustainability consultants and Studio 4215 environment consultants – features a series of community spaces focused around new green infrastructure.

Practice partner Pedro Roos said: ‘Low Line Commons aspires to be a shared natural and cultural resource of the people, by the people and for the people. It aims to transform the arches from being a barrier to a seam sensitively knitted into the multiple layers of the local context.

‘We look forward to working with the client team in developing the Low Line as a robust piece of infrastructure for London that creatively tackles the current environmental, economic and social challenges head-on.’

Donald Hyslop, chair of Better Bankside and the Low Line Steering Group, said: ‘We were very pleased to see so many entries to the competition, both locally and internationally. The Low Line Commons stands out with its attention to addressing the intricacies of the project and making people its chief concern – placing communities and ecology at its heart.’

The phased project aims to transform the structures, which create a physical barrier between central and south London, into a continuous piece of green infrastructure featuring a ‘world-class walking route’ from Southwark tube station on Blackfriars Road in the west to Southwark Park Road in the east. 

The anonymous RIBA-run competition invited multidisciplinary teams of architects, landscape architects, artists, ecologists and designers to create a ‘green and creative vision and strategy’ for the project.

It was backed by Better Bankside and the Low Line Steering Group, with support from the Lund Trust, a charitable fund set up by Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing. 

The Low Line has received a £1 million grant from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund and £1 million from its project partners to deliver projects across the area, including early schemes stemming from the design competition.

Judges included Rausing, Landscape Institute president Adam White, Tim Rettler of the Greater London Authority regeneration team, Rebecca Lury, deputy Leader of Southwark Council, and Graham Morrison, partner at Bankside-based Allies and Morrison, acting as RIBA adviser.

Rausing said: ‘Congratulations to the winners, whose design offers a thoughtful and inclusive approach and shows how public space can be transformed to provide vital connections between communities, the built and natural environment, and the history and future of the area.’

The shortlist

  • [WINNER] The Low Line Commons: building a common vision for the Low Line and putting the local community, as well as nature, at the heart of the project by by PDP London with Macfarlane and Associates Landscape Architects, Greengage and Studio 4215
  • The introduction of Crossings and Clearings to improve the coherence of the Low Line, enable new routes and revive disused spaces by Ludwig Willis Architects, working with Howard Miller Landscape and Shortwork
  • A green Breathing Spaces walking route aiming to improve health and encourage nature into the city, by Matthew Halsall Design Studio working with Civic Engineers, Green Infrastructure Consultancy, NTR Planning and Cundall Engineering
  • A Low Line Assembly Toolkit to enable local people to make a significant difference to their environments, by Weston Williamson + Partners working with Arup and Exterior Architecture
  • A plan to create A Circular Low Line to celebrate local values, while creating a world-class walkway, by Madrid-based Gutiérrez-delaFuente Arquitectos SLP working with BAC Engineering Consultancy Group and Drama Visualisations.
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