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Rival visions for Nine Elms underpass revealed

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The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) has unveiled six competing visions for a £200,000 overhaul of Thessaly Road Railway Bridge in Nine Elms, south-west London

The rival designs for the public spaces beneath the bridge have been drawn up by a raft of emerging talents including ArchitectureDoingPlace, Jan Kattein Architects, De Rosee Sa, and Farrer Huxley Associates.

Vintage furniture upcycler Yinka Ilori and a collaboration between Peckham Coal Line architects Mesh Workshop, Scotland’s Bigg Design and London-based artist and designer Matthew McGuinness complete the shortlist.

Open to architects, designers, artists and students, the competition sought proposals to transform the ‘ugly and unwelcoming’ underpass into an attractive and user-friendly route for pedestrians and cyclists.

The project – backed by Wandsworth Council – aims to create a new high-quality gateway to the Nine Elms Vauxhall regeneration zone, whose centrepiece, Kieran Timberlake’s £750 million US Embassy, officially opens next month. The winner will take home £20,000 and see their scheme installed in time for next year’s architecture festival.

LFA director Tamsie Thomson said: ‘The Thessaly Road Railway Bridge competition offers an excellent example of how architecture and design can be harnessed to make a huge difference to the lives of thousands of people.

‘I’m delighted that local residents will now have the opportunity to have their say on the shortlisted designs, and be part of the process that will turn a neglected corner of the city into a much more attractive environment for local communities, and a vibrant showcase of London’s creative talent.’

Local residents will now have the opportunity to have their say on the shortlisted designs

Wandsworth Council cabinet member for community services and open spaces, Steffi Sutters said: ‘The Thessaly Road underpass, which is right next to St George’s Primary School, has long been overdue a makeover and I am delighted to see these vibrant designs, any one of which will make a real difference to the journeys of everyone who passes through.

‘It is great to be working with the London Festival of Architecture on this project and getting the community directly involved in helping to choose a really creative design that will transform this community gateway. We are looking forward to hearing what local residents and people who use the underpass think of the six shortlisted proposals.’

Aydin Dikerdem, councillor for Queenstown said: ‘It’s great to see that finally the underpass is going to get some investment and a much needed make-over. This is an important connecting space between Patmore and Savona Estate and I look forward to seeing the design local residents choose.’

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. The project aims to identify fresh ideas for the underpass while also generating a flagship solution that could be harnessed for other similar sites across the capital.

Proposals could harness lighting, painting, graphic design or tiling and were required to deliver a low-maintenance solution to improve aesthetics, access and safety under the bridge. Submissions also needed to consider sustainability and be resistant to all weather conditions.

Judges include 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.

The six shortlisted designs will feature in a series of public exhibitions at the ROSE Community Centre on Ascalon Street and St George’s Church, 11 Patmore Street this month.

The finalist teams – announced in March – received £500 each to develop concept designs. The overall winner will receive £20,000 to further develop their designs which will be installed in time for next year’s LFA.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Stunningly banal, every one. Can't imagine a level of inferiority that must represent the disqualified. How about a "shortlist" of none?

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  • Phil Parker

    I like the fruity one that looks like Waitrose packaging - it’s sort of comforting.

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  • The existing walkways are relatively narrow and surely the on-street parking under the bridge could be sacrificed to help in creating a more attractive walking environment.
    Farrer Huxley's fruit and veg images are very attractive, and clearly reference the nearby New Covent Garden Market - but none of the shortlisted proposals seem to reference the Thessaly connection. And there's a wider European connection in the shape of the modern concrete span overlaid on the northern side of the original railway bridge, - the initial Eurostar route out of London.

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