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‘An Architectural Fashion Show’: The Design District of the Greenwich Peninsula | architecture


a The mirror-polished silver box stands proudly on a corner of the Greenwich Peninsula, reflecting a new world of architectural experimentation. A transparent caterpillar of a building on one side, with clear plastic protruding around a bright yellow frame, forms a space-age chrysalis. Next door is a covered pile of raw concrete floors, the bare bones of a building wrapped in a ghostly shroud of steel mesh, giving it the appearance of a multi-story aviary. Nearby is a sturdy, low-slung box covered with rusted panels of Cor-Ten steel, and a small tower-like block wrapped in a corduroy cloak of slender white tubes. Elsewhere in the menagerie we find a pair of triangular wedges dressed in harlequin costumes of pink and green terrazzo diamonds, and several other creatures whose alien wings have not yet emerged from behind the scaffold.

The Souk... a CGI imprint of the Design District.
The Souk… a CGI imprint of the Design District. Photograph: Design District

it’s the new one with flare eyes Design District, a planned “creative quarter” in the center of the Greenwich Peninsula in London. Launched in a phased manner in the coming months, it aims to provide affordable workspaces for around 1,800 people in the fashion, food, tech, craft and other sectors. With eight architects each charged with designing a pair of buildings, this is an eclectic zoo of structures, the self-consciously funky vibe aimed at luring creative types across the river from Shoreditch – as well as the first With £5/sq ft rent for the year. .

The Design District is the brainchild of an image-conscious developer knight dragon, a company backed by Hong Kong billionaire Henry Cheng Kar-shun, which has been leading the peninsula’s £8.4bn development since 2012. It is known as one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe, with 17,500 houses and 70,000 square metres. Office space on an 80-hectare site, and towers of up to 36 floors, realizing the Millennium Project around the former Dome, for more than 20 years.

So far, the history of the various masterplans has created a distinct niche where grave glass cliffs of investment flats run down one side of the peninsula, forming a defensive battery with the dome – now O2 – separated by a bay of car parks. It becomes Affordable housing at the other end of the site. Spanish superstar Santiago Calatrava was Shipped to sprinkle fairy dust in 2017, but a trio of his £1bn towers have since been removed, considered a costly move. A sorry copy of New York’s High Line Opened here in 2019 In a vain attempt to bring in some more footfall, but yet it feels like another piece of futile innovation infrastructure, joining Nearby empty cable car.

Given this checkered history, what are we doing to the design district? Is it a cynical exercise to pour some cultural cache into this commercial wasteland and pump up the values ​​of the surrounding property? Or is it a genuine effort to provide low-cost workspace in a city where Creative industries are constantly being priced? The answer is a little of both.

For all the obvious fads, the masterplan itself is surprisingly sensible. It eschews the model of towers on podiums found elsewhere on the site, and instead seeks to create alleyways and yards, with small buildings at odd angles creating the feeling of a piece of the city that has grown over time. has developed. At some points the passage between the buildings is only three meters wide, intended to give a souk-like air.

“The places people love are usually messy and designed with a lot of different hands,” says Matt Dearlove, head of peninsula design at Night Dragon. “We wanted it to be a place with Marmite moments, where you turn a corner and see something you think is wonderful” – he observes the chaotic jumble of forms – “or you have the opposite reaction can.”

Mirror-polished ... Barozzi Veiga's entire building, with 6a's checkerboard design, and SelgasCano's 'Caterpillar' food hall shaping up to the left.
Mirror-polished … Barozzi Veiga’s entire building, with 6a’s checkerboard design, and SelgasCano’s ‘Caterpillar’ food hall shaping up to the left. Photo: Taran Wilkhu

In a game of architectural consequences, the designers were given the same brief and asked to work blind without knowing what their neighbors were plotting. The buildings had a fixed footprint, maximum overall size, and a three-part structure: a ground floor for workshops and cafes; 1st floor for “desk-based creatives”; and a light-filled upper floor suitable for artists or photographers.

“It was a strange way to design,” says Tom Emerson of 6A, architect of Harlequin Wedges. “We had no context to work with. It was quite refreshing, as the buildings became about their own internal logic rather than being endlessly reactive to other things.”

The result is 16 Mini Manifesto, a space that feels like sifting through an architectural magazine featuring the latest trends, a small expo of ideas. While the combined impact can lead to indigestion, to please even the toughest one must find at least one building they love.

Precision by Spanish-Italian duo Barozzi Veiga is the first mirror-polished box to open this month. home for new Creativity and Technology Institute Of Ravensbourne University, it stands as an abstract idea of ​​a warehouse, a shimmering chimera of a factory, with massive industrial windows distorting a sense of scale. Finished in highly reflective aluminum as variable as the London skies, it has the air of a piece of precision computer hardware, making it a fitting place for Ravensborne’s experiments in the future of technology. The architects’ second building will be a black-clad doppelgnger, creating a bucolic counterpoint at the far side of the site.

A CGI impression showing Architecture 00's rooftop basketball court.
‘Raw and Open’ … a CGI impression showing Architecture 00’s rooftop basketball court. Photograph: Design District

Across the road lies a hidden pile architecture 00. His diaphanous shroud rises to enclose the basketball court on the roof, with Canary Wharf views providing a spectacular backdrop – along with the feeling of playing on a terrace without any obvious balustrades. This is the clever result of maximizing the net interior area below, while pushing all the stairs and landings outwards into the building, winding its way into a dramatic passage behind the trap. Additional cash from this efficient configuration paid for the rooftop court – which would remain open to the public.

“Buildings show their potential when they are not completed,” says 00’s Linton Papers. “So we’ve tried to keep it as raw and open as possible. You can come out and walk around the deck at any time, there’s no balustrade because of the lattice.” His second building follows a similar logic , with exterior decks that extend at various points to allow space for outdoor working. He envisioned these as messy places for cutting, painting and drilling, but the building is now home to the Bureau Co-working Club The laptop will be the home of the nomads.

Unlike the gritty concrete and steel of the 00, comes a full-on Pomo revival David Kohno. Circulating James Stirling’s 1987 Clore Gallery at the Tate Britain, his pair of buildings features a bright green square grid of contrasting red bricks, colonnades of thick columns and a cheerful ceiling hints. Taking inspiration from the historic Guildhall, Kohn persuaded Knight Dragon to include plinths and niches for the figurative sculpture on the façade, which is expected to reflect the range of tenants and the things they produce in the coming months. will be added to. “There have always been many hands involved in the history of architecture,” Kohn says. “I’m interested to see what happens when you give up control.”

Po-Mo Revival... a design by David Kohn Architects.
Pomo Revival… David Kohn Architects Design. Photograph: Design District

After years of working on the subtle refurbishment of historic structures, 6a Architects are also clearly enjoying a neo-pomo moment. same as their Milton Keynes Gallery, his contribution brings a loud graphic pop here, with supersized terrazzo diamonds running across the façades like jazzy wrapping paper.

“We were really interested in the flatness of commercial construction,” says Emerson, whose work has mainly consisted of projects for artists and galleries until recently. “Everything is made of these flat layers, so you end up with a very smooth world—which can be terrifying. But we wanted to see what we could get out of it if we really went for it.” Inspired by American artist’s super-flat Formica sculptures Richard Artschweger, he has played with the mediocrity of proprietary systems, creating umbrellas over doors with oversized spiral ductwork and large cowls. Inside, the pink fireproof plasterboard has been left uncovered, and the breezeblock walls are painted to match only the red and pink facades.

There are other interesting things in the making by MOL, Adam Khan, HNNA (who also did the masterplan) and the Spanish firm Selgascano, architects 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, whose shrunken plastic caterpillars will soon be a food hall, with market stalls running amid lush greenhouses of tropical trees rising from the mezzanine level.

The architectural fashion show is captivating, but its true success will come down to gathering the right mix of tenants to make sure it’s actually a space to build and not just more acres of co-working space. People should be allowed to make a mess. The district’s director, Helen Arvanitakis, says the idea is to create a “self-sustaining ecosystem”, where a fashion designer hires a photographer next door to shoot their collection, and with start-up sauce company Graphics Studio works so that it can be designed. The packaging, with the mock-up printed by Repro House below. Confirmed tenants so far range from sneaker design studios concept kicks and music PR firm Brace yourself, for the LGBTQ+ arts sector queercircle and love is welcome, a social enterprise using the craft to help refugee women.

Work in progress in Greenwich.
Interesting… Work in progress in Greenwich. Photograph: Taran Wilkhu

Arvanitakis says larger businesses are also being targeted, such as advertising firms “who will pay top dollar to be around young creatives,” with a “mixed” rental model that allows fat cats to cross over to children. Will give subsidy. She says the district is intended to be “permanently” affordable, although the deal with the Greater London Authority, which owns the land, mandates a 10-year period, after which Affordable sector may be reduced to 25%.

Whatever the long-term fate, the district is shaping up to be a welcome effort to go beyond business as usual, hiring architects who might not otherwise work on rigorous commercial projects. We can only hope that the sense of ingenuity and fun they brought has spread to the vast hectares of the rest of the site – and this is not an elaborate marketing exercise surrounded by the usual bloated luxury towers.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of knews.uk and knews.uk does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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