February 9, 2021
Wandsworth Council and London Festival of Architecture have revealed the winners of the Nine Elms Arch 42 Gateways competition.
Architecture practice Projects Office have won the competition with their co-design project, ‘Tunnel Visions’ which aims to bring the diverse and growing local community together through a new connection for Nine Elms, turning Arch 42 into a bold local landmark.
The competition was open to all architects, landscape architects, designers and artists which sought imaginative design ideas for this historic railway arch.
The Arch 42 Gateways competition follows the huge success of ‘Happy Street’ which reinvented the Thessaly Road underpass in Nine Elms in 2019. Artist Yinka Ilori, who won the design competition organised by Wandsworth Council and the London Festival of Architecture, was part of the expert panel judging the Arch 42 designs.
Originally built as part of the Victorian railway viaduct carrying the South Western main line into Waterloo station, the winning design will transform the arch into a welcoming new route that can connect locals and visitors to the new Northern Line Extension, New Covent Garden Market, the US Embassy and the River Thames.
Following a public exhibition in December 2020, almost 700 members of the public sent in their comments on the shortlisted designs.
The winning design was then selected by a panel of expert judges, including David Bickle (partner, Hawkins\Brown), Louise Dransfield (Former London editor, Estates Gazette), Yinka Ilori (artist and designer), Christopher Mansfield (chartered engineer, Network Rail), Alex Rinsler (Nine Elms strategic lead for culture, Wandsworth Council) and Tamsie Thomson (Managing Director, New London Architecture).
The Tunnel Visions design was judged to show the best balance between innovation and artistic merit as well as showing deliverability and practicality for long term maintenance, elements that featured in the public feedback.
Wandsworth Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and Open Spaces, Councillor Steffi Sutters, said: “Projects Office have brought innovative thinking to this Victorian railway arch with a bright design that taps into our local transport heritage while connecting communities on both sides of the railway line.
“We were delighted that so many people sent in their views during the design competition that we ran with London Festival of Architecture. People who live and work in the area have welcomed the news that this new route is being created and I know that our local schools and residents are really looking forward to getting involved.”
Projects Office was founded by Megan Charnley, James Christian and Bethan Kay in 2015, and the team delight in projects which involve and celebrate communities, at work, at play or in the city. Building on this, their joyful proposal seeks to empower residents with a sense of ownership and forge connections between people and local places to end loneliness.
James Christian, co-founder and director at Projects Office, said: “We are delighted to have been selected as winners for this unusual and exciting competition. With the mainline railway bisecting Nine Elms, the Arch 42 underpass acts as an important threshold between the regeneration area, New Covent Garden Market and the established communities of the residential areas to the south. We look forward to developing bold new structures in collaboration with Wandsworth Council and the communities of Nine Elms to connect these very distinct parts of London.”
Connection to history and community was a top theme that emerged from public feedback around the designs.
With a nod to Nine Elms’ railway heritage, the design of ‘Tunnel Visions’ will see Projects Office work with school children, residents and traders to reimagine traditional railway station ‘daggerboards’.
Online sessions, and later in-person workshops where possible, will enable participants to create their own repeat patterns using simple paper-cutting techniques, which will be applied to intricately cut timber façades as a new design language, tying together a number of different interventions.
Lighting and feeling safe was also a key theme from public feedback. Projects Office proposals include a dramatic funnel archway highlighting the tunnel’s southern entrance with integrated seating and lighting. A decorative arch to the north, a ‘community totem’ which glows at night and plentiful planting (see image below). Further plans for lighting will develop as details of the design are finalised.
Creating a visual connection between Arch 42 and the new Tube stations, the bold design elements will orientate and direct visitors through the tunnel while also supporting active travel by foot or bike.
‘Tunnel Visions’ is designed as a flexible kit of parts, where community input will determine how select elements could be added or relocated elsewhere in future as needs and contexts change. Constructed from sustainably sourced timber and built to last, the components are optimised with standard size materials to minimise waste and can also be recycled at the end of their design life
Panel member David Bickle (Partner, Hawkins\Brown) said: “Projects Office’s winning proposal for Arch 42 effortlessly answered the brief and responded deftly to the complicated and challenging nature of the site. Both poetic and pragmatic it is a fitting theatrical response for a place that is experiencing dynamic and turbulent change.”
Another focal point from public feedback was that people felt the design should be cheerful, visually appealing and most of all, bring joy to the area.
Tamsie Thomson, Managing Director at New London Architecture, said: “’Tunnel Visions’ is a worthy winner – a witty and inclusive response to our competition brief, connecting contemporary design, heritage, and local people. It demonstrates how an everyday route can become a memorable landmark thanks to a simple concept, imaginative use of materials and a design that draws upon the character of its surroundings. I’m looking forward to following the design development with input from local people, and to seeing it in place later this year.”
Most importantly, from public feedback, we know that people are excited and looking forward to the arch opening. Projects Office will now work with stakeholders, and the local community to build upon and develop their initial design vision further, with a view to delivering the project ahead of the scheduled opening of the Northern Line Extension in Autumn 2021.
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