In 2018 the practice won a competition to revitalise the public realm around the southern end of Tower Bridge Road in London. The competition scheme, developed in collaboration with artist Gabriel Kuri, explored the potential to transform an existing raised podium terrace on the edge of the Bricklayer’s Arms roundabout into a public walled garden, and proposed the conversion of a series of neglected lock-up garages at ground level into a thriving community of artist studios.
The history of the Bricklayer’s Arms as a stopping point on the pilgrimage route in and out of London played an important role in the ambition to turn the raised wall garden into a little oasis on the edge of the city.
The gardens, designed in collaboration with horticulturalist Nigel Dunnett, emphasise the idea of pilgrimage through the selection of non-endemic plants that have now become naturalised to the UK.
It both reflects the residents of the estate and its designed to survive periods of long drought and neglect, to futureproof the ecosystem for an increasingly warmer climate.
During initial investigations, the original condition of the waterproofing to the raised terrace was found to need a complete upgrade. This repair utilised most of the available budget, requiring all other interventions to the existing structure to be kept to a minimum. Three large openings were punched in the existing concrete deck,
one for a public stair to the garden, the second one for a large central skylight providing daylight to the centre of the deep plan and the third as a opening in the slab for a new mature tree to climb through and provide shade under its canopy at first floor level, its roots firmly planted at ground level.
The existing lock up garages were converted into a mix of studios and a café, organised around a central events space, where a cultural programme organised by Forma Arts will be hosted throughout the year.
Architect: Sanchez Benton architects
Artist: Gabriel Kuri
Horticulturalist: Nigel Dunnett
Structural engineer: Price and Myers
Client: Place & Wellbeing, Southwark Council Project Manager/Lead Client: Rumi Bose Public Art Commissioner/Curator: Aldo Rinaldi Contractor: BRAC Contracts
Operator: Forma Arts