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Royal Docks Competition

By Ruth Slavid
Some 65 teams produced proposals to revitalise London’s Royal Docks in a resilient and water-sensitive manner. We publish the best of them.

Two landscape architects, Bethany Gale and Sarah Tolley, have won the competition to design a scheme for London’s Royal Docks that would create a more resilient and water-sensitive environment. The competition, organised by the Landscape Institute and Ecobuild, with support from the Mayor of London, London Borough of Newham and Open-City, and sponsorship from Marshalls, attracted 65 entries, of which 20 were shortlisted and exhibited at Ecobuild.

Following two well-attended seminars on water-sensitive urban design, a winner, a second prize and four runners up were announced.

The three docks that make up the Royal Docks in east London have a total water area of nearly 250 acres, making them the largest enclosed docks in the world. Speaking about the shortlist Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institute, said: ‘It’s time we started to see water as a valuable resource – rather than something to be hidden away underground. Recent events in Somerset and elsewhere in the country have demonstrated that the UK desperately needs a fully integrated approach to flooding, water supply and land use management. The designs on the shortlist show what is possible if we adopt a mixed green, grey and blue infrastructure approach. I hope this competition helps stimulate debate about how we should be planning and managing more “liveable” and water sensitive places in the future.’

The judges of the competition were:
Peter Barbalov – partner, Farrells Richard Blakeway – deputy mayor for housing, land and property, Greater London Authority Jamie Dean – regeneration manager, north east area, Greater London Authority Nuala Gallagher – London Borough of Newham Sue Illman – President, Landscape Institute Thomas Lane – group technical editor, Building magazine and Ecobuild Mike Luddy – managing director, Royal Docks Management Authority Victoria Thornton – founding director, Open-City.

Every submission consisted of two boards. You will have a chance to see these during the London Festival of Architecture when they will be on display at the Building Centre in central London on the evening of 12 June. There will also be presentations by the winning and shortlisted teams. For more details go to the LI website. In the meantime, you can learn more about the winning and shortlisted schemes on the following pages.
Silvertown Docks

by Bethany Gale and Sarah Tolley
Prize: £2000

The judges said of the project, ‘This has a sense of place and a notion of history. It has a seeming effortlessness that comes together into something that is believable. It creates
a green oasis in the docks and has elements that will appeal to everybody, humanising the dock and softening its hard edges, making the most of existing assets.’

Gale and Tolley described their project as follows: ‘Silvertown Docks proposes a new type of marina for the Royal Docks that balances the past with the present. Once used as a graving dock for shipbuilding and repair, the site is transformed into a unique series of spaces that encourage both ecological and human uses.

‘The proposal for the Silvertown Docks provides space for flooding mitigation, habitat development, interaction with the water and play. The docks to the West allow for a variety of wildlife to recolonise the area and thrive on sunken ships. This harks back to the site’s industrial past and provides a much needed green open space for the neighbouring communities.

‘The green axis links Thames Barrier Park through to the Crystal, Emirates cable car and DLR stations, adding legibility and accessibility to the site. Docks to the East then provide more interaction with the water, including opportunities for paddling, swimming, scuba diving and canoeing.

‘These will be supported by new mixed-use development plots that frame the docks and create active waterfront edges. Silvertown Docks recognises the area as both a visitor attraction and a neighbourhood and it aims to draw together the two elements with community space and an exciting hub for sport, leisure and wildlife preservation.’
Second place
E16 6BL

by Arup
Prize: £1000

This project was a masterplan to create a technology hub around London City Airport. The judges said, ‘This is an approach of technical expertise in addressing so many of the issues related to the docks. You can apply it as you need to, and the strategy is communicated very well.’

The Arup team described it as follows:
‘E16 6BL embraces the unique landscape of London’s Royal Docks, characterised by a palette of six blues each with their own intriguing environments. From the power and might of the River and undefended estuary downstream of the barrier, through to the deep still water of the three docks and the natural cycles of water percolating amongst the green fingers in the urban development, E16 6BL brings a landscape that combines productivity with recreation and economic regeneration.

‘The vision creates a technology-rich hub around London’s airport, utilising landscape in a way that responds to the challenges of climate change, makes beneficial use of
the infrastructure, land use and services present and forms a warm and inviting public realm in a vast industrial setting.

‘The vision incorporates:

• improved connectivity through a network integrating the key hubs of rail, air and water; creating a local transport zone dominated by pedestrians and cyclists;

• large-scale food production utilising the public realm, water, roofs and walls with technologies including hydroponics;

• systems to re-use waste from industries and the northern outfall sewer,
generating energy;

• a water cycle that makes use of run-off
to create dynamic landscapes that purify and reduce flood risk;

• a cost effective solution for London’s excavated material, used to create a new topography for the Docklands.

‘Above all, E16 6BL achieves this while maximising development opportunities, enhancing land values through intelligent multifunctional landscapes and tackles the social deprivation of the wider communities by creating a vibrant new place.’
Highly commended

by Christos Diplas
Prize: £500

Christos Diplas is a student at the University of Sheffield. His project places greenhouses in the water, where they can act as community spaces for growing vegetables and hosting workshops and exhibitions. The technology that he uses includes aquaponics, algal pods and transparent photovoltaics. The judges said: ‘There is something poetic about the images. It offers a real way of addressing the industrial hard edge of the docks. This is a fantastic design for a student.’
Highly commended
Re-connecting the Docks

by James Hartwell
Prize: £500

James Hartwell is also a student at the University of Sheffield. His proposal would create an urban farm beside the Thames,
a linear public park called Wharf Park linking Victoria Dock with the Thames and a new neighbourhood within Victoria Dock, to be called Victoria Village. The judges said, ‘The idea of reactivating the old lock entrances is genius. Hartwell has majored on the urban form, on a community orchard and on connecting people and water, which is a different emphasis. It recognises that the docks have always fed London.’
Highly commended

by Studio Engleback
Prize: £500

Studio Engleback described this proposal as ‘a framework for a floating garden city’. Housing, a square, offices, reedbeds and a farm would all exist on the water, adding capacity to the capital and also landscape. The judges said, ‘There is a practicality about this proposal. It brings back some of the vibrancy and vitality that the docks would once have had. There is a high employment density and a complete community on the water combining traditional maritime and land-based elements.’
Highly commended
Water Boulevards

by Baharash Architecture
Prize: £500

This proposal uses aqueous thoroughfares to weave existing surrounding communities together and to provide economic, environmental and social sustainability. The judges said, ‘There were some very good concepts dealing with the issues of water and water management. The proposal integrates buildings and landscape and takes the docks through to the surrounding community to encourage an environment using water and greater biodiversity. It’s a simple and very effective idea.’
The following projects were also shortlisted.

3 Systems by Metrostudio UK Designs for new canal side living and a riverside park.

Albert Island by B|D landscape architects The creation of an urban park as a new link across the docks with productive orchard and boardwalk riverwalk. The use of biodiverse swales provides filtration for grey water.

The Ecosystem Engines by The Ecology Consultancy, The Green Roof Consultancy, Charlotte Harris Landscape Design, Marianna Magklara Architecture and Environmental Engineering Clusters of island pods and pontoons, including a wet woodland, flower-rich habitats and grey water harvesting.

Fade-in Landscape by GAAM. Architectes A greenway stretching the length of the docks with mixed-use activity islands, a green-power island and flood reservoir.

Floating Forest by Greysmith Associates Designs for a floating forest to connect neighbourhoods and act as a new educational attraction.

A Landmark for Living by Gensler A new park, bridges and transport links to improve connectivity within the Royal Docks. 

Life in Technicolour by Carl Hong, Farah Dakkak and Brad Clothier A floating village, public square, wetlands, beach and rain gardens creating a vibrant new waterfront.

Project Float by Jonathan Dancey, University of Gloucestershire Floating development based on a modular design with infinite uses and layouts.

The Resilient Docks by Shu Kuei Hsu, University of Washington and Qian Qian Ye, Cornell University The creation of a liveable and sustainable development integrating green infrastructure and water-sensitive design to mitigate urban runoff and protect the shoreline ecosystem.

The Sensory Docks by Kay Pallaris, Jamie Abbott, Francesco Bernabei, Nick Udal, Briony Turner, Mena Shah, Francesca Guarascio & Luis Rojas Green-blue connectivity for all five human senses – a place more physically, emotionally and ecologically connected with its local surroundings.

Silvertown Green Docks by Artem Barkhin, Leeds Metropolitan University A new floating village, urban forest and wetland networks with green roofs for food production and green corridor for wildlife. 

Silvertown Quays and Minoco Wharf by Konrad Boncza-Pioro
A plan to establish an aquarium as a centre for marine and inland water ecosystem studies, a centre for urban agriculture and a SUDs system incorporated into the buildings and landscape.

Silvertown Wetlands by Andreas Boden and Malan I Jákupsstovu A design to create a green nature retreat and walkway to act as a wetland flood plain.

What if we move the River? By HWP Planungsgesellschaft mbH
A radical plan which imagines the redirection of the Thames to unlock land to form a new River Thames Park, which would provide a continuous greenlink from the O2 Arena to Gallions Hill. 

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