Wolfgang Buttress has won the London Festival of Architecture’s contest for a £67,000 interactive pop-up installation on the north bank of the River Thames in central London
The designer of the UK’s pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo was chosen ahead of ‘alternative spatial practice’ Concrete Action, landscape architect FFLO, and new practice White Red Architects. Emerging firms Hayatsu Architects and Clementine Blakemore Architecture were also shortlisted.
The competition, organised by the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) on behalf of the City of London Corporation and Illuminated River Foundation, asked for ‘attractive and welcoming’ proposals to boost pedestrian activity along the underused Thames Riverside Walkway.
The artist’s 4.5 metre-high winning scheme – dubbed Liminal – features several aluminium panels intended to ‘focus and alter viewers’ perception and experience of the river’. A live data feed from an underwater sonar will also influence an app that expresses the Thames through sound and light.
Buttress will now receive £67,000 to deliver his scheme in time for next year’s festival in June and the partial completion of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ and Leo Villareal’s £20 million Illuminated River project.
Buttress said: ‘I am excited to be working on this project. Liminal is both a conduit and a space; I am creating an architectural painting which will connect the audience to the elusive mystery, power and pull of the river Thames.’
LFA director Tamsie Thomson said: ‘At the London Festival of Architecture we are thrilled to be working alongside Wolfgang Buttress – an internationally renowned artist whose work offers a fascinating and immersive exploration of our boundaries theme, and an imaginative installation that will draw people closer to the mysterious River Thames.’
Graham Packham, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said: ‘My colleagues and I are very happy to send our congratulations to Wolfgang Buttress on winning the River View design competition, and we look forward to seeing Liminal installed in its chosen location alongside the Thames.
‘His unique vision clearly piqued the judges’ interest and I feel sure that, as combined elements, the sight of the sculpture and the sounds of the sonar will intrigue the many millions of people who pass by this engaging art work.’
The Thames Riverside Walkway follows the north bank of the river within the City of London but is much less popular than the neighbouring south bank because of its lack of seating, poor accessibility and absence of spaces where visitors can linger and enjoy the area.
The competition set out to address these challenges by delivering a landmark installation at one or all of the four key sites selected by the organisers. Proposals could focus on one or all of the contest’s four sites – Fishmongers’ Hall, Angel Lane, Vintners Hall and City of London School – but had to address the north bank’s lack of seating and interactive public spaces.
Judges included Thomson, Gaventa, Financial Times architecture critic Edwin Heathcote and Hawkins\Brown partner David Bickle.
The full shortlist
Winner: Wolfgang Buttress
Liminal is an ‘architectural painting’ using a variety of mirror, bright, satin and matt polished aluminium panels to focus and alter viewers’ perception and experience of the river, and blurring the boundaries between 2D, 3D and 4D. The modular design can be shared over four sites, while a combination of a sonar device and a specially-designed app enhances the multi-sensory installation through an ever-changing light field and soundscape that explores the surface and depths of the river.
Shortlisted: Clementine Blakemore Architects
The Thames Water Gate takes its cue from the ornate structures which lined the riverbank in the 17th century and provided access from the water to houses along The Strand and Fleet Street. The proposal consists of two parts: a pair of solid bases located within historically rich sites, and a lightweight illuminated ‘lantern’ that can be installed on top of both or upon a barge travelling between the two sites – celebrating the historic ceremonial and functional uses of the Thames and provoking a conversation about the role of the river within the city today.
Shortlisted: Concrete Action
Concrete Action is a collective experimenting with alternative spatial practices across the city, increasing transparency and empowering people who live in areas of intense urban renewal. Calling on digital commons, green junkie plants thriving on nitrogen dioxide, hybrid composite terrazzo directly cast from the beach and pipe dreams connecting it all, Samizdat on Thames tells a hidden story of activism, bringing people face to face with the dirty Thames, its forgotten pebble beach and the invisible liquid history of the people’s struggles, laundry money, river and land ownership.
Shortlisted: FFLO with Entuitive and East Anglia Records
FFLO with Entuitive and East Anglia Records
Kaleidoscope explores the strange and wild nature of the Thames at its urban boundaries in the city. Made entirely from waste products, the skin of the kaleidoscope is formed from recycled plastic sourced in London, and supported by timber thinnings (a forestry by-product). The structure captures the river’s wild atmosphere: daylight from the sky to the south, and refractions and reflections from its surface that change throughout the day whether through sunlight, mist, drizzle or fog. Inside, visitors sit among an array of multiplied and reconfigured elements.
Shortlisted: Hayatsu Architects
Four timber structures – The Stage, The Cabin, The Tunnel and The Bench– highlight the qualities of their riverside locations and enhance the river bank as a whole civic space. By adopting the structural principles of traditional Japanese timber bridges, each creates an intricate structure, with a simple and abstract form that can be enjoyed in its own right, or as part of a sequence along the north bank of the Thames.
Shortlisted: White Red Architects
Crossing the River is a series of simple timber-framed structures designed to encourage visitors to cross to the north bank and interact with the river in different ways. A periscope acts as a beacon and offers views across the river; a simple open-air event space harnesses the river as the backdrop for summer performances; a mudlarking display pavilion showcases the Thames as ‘liquid history’ through archaeology; and a ‘poetry trumpet’ can be used to project stanzas inspired by the Thames across its waters.