The brief for this project was to create a mixed-use development of the highest quality – incorporating residential, commercial and hotel uses – whilst providing an active retail frontage along Nine Elms Lane and a dock inlet, as well as new pedestrian links to the waterfront. In the early 19th century, this part of the river was made up of a number of small wharves and docks, gradually replaced over time by other industrial uses. However, in recent years, the site had been used as a delivery depot.
It is bounded by the river to the north, Nine Elms Lane to the south and Cringle/Kirtling Streets to the west. Key features of the site and the surrounding area include: protected industrial wharves to both east and west which limit opportunities for wider connections to the river walk; a redundant industrial concrete pier serving a river boat community of approximately 20 moorings with access across the site; a dock inlet a limited number of semi-mature trees on the river frontage.
RSHP’s site response aims to achieve a simple arrangement of 18m-wide buildings – appropriate to residential and hotel uses – which are perpendicular to the river, pier and dock inlet and parallel to the Kirtling Street boundary.
The proposal seeks to achieve a contemporary architectural language that creates its own rhythm, articulation and colouration to define its unique character and relationship to its riverside context, whilst avoiding monolithic frontages and the overshadowing of neighbouring developments.
The north/south orientation of the buildings maximises visual and physical permeability across the site, opening up a series of linear courtyards onto the river and introducing a green aspect onto Nine Elms Lane. The buildings alter subtly in proportion across the site – from west to east – from larger to smaller plan form. They are arranged in a rising-form composition, ranging in height from 12 to 20 storeys and giving the development a varied skyline. The spaces between the buildings and the river walk receive generous sunlight. This is maximised by modelling the promontories to open up the ends of courtyards between buildings, thereby allowing light to reach deep into the site and onto the river walk.
The architectural expression takes its cue from the former industrial warehouse buildings that lined the river in previous centuries. The language is of simple robust structures which give emphasis to their construction. Buildings are divided into three distinct zones: top; middle; and base. Top levels are lightweight, two-storey structures with gull-wing roofs; mid levels are represented as concrete floors expressed every two storeys, with intermediate floors expressed as lightweight steel balconies. The prow ends are articulated as a series of steel hangers supporting the large end cantilevers. The leading edges of the building are an open-jointed, panelised rain screen reminiscent of timber board construction.
The Riverlight scheme will form a key proposal in the regeneration and restructuring of Nine Elms in response to the aims of the Vauxhall/Nine Elms/Battersea opportunity area within the London Plan and will be the first site in Nine Elms to be developed as part of this process.
In urban terms, the proposal seeks to create a transition between the large footprints of the power station and the smaller residential developments to the east.
Cores are seen as a celebration of the dynamic movement systems of the building, providing passengers with spectacular panoramic views across London, as well as containing risers and fire access and providing daylight to the circulation areas.
Commercial and community uses at street level – including restaurants, bars and cafés arranged around the dock inlet, as well as a food store, crèche and business suite – will help to attract visitors onto the site and animate the public areas of the scheme.
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