Page D1.2 . 29 May 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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London's Thames Barrier Park

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The Royal Victoria Square uses the past as a central theme, with focus on an original warehouse and the massive dockside cranes. Along with the linear canopies mimicking the historic finger docks, the space is a place of relief and to take spill out from the vast adjacent exhibition halls.

To the north of the square, the axis of the park's original master plan is defined by a stone-paved band and water jets with fiber-optic lighting. To the south, a deck overhanging the dock edge has been formed to define a viewing area for water sports and dock activities.

Evaluating a Park's Worth

When the Thames Barrier Park first opened, the only access was by bus or a long walk from the nearest railway station. The park was, at the time, a rare peaceful haven in London, providing an area for peaceful meditation. With an increase in housing and links such as the Lifschutz Davidson-designed bridge from the Royal Victoria Square, the park will begin to take on its true communal role.

Has it worked? According to the architects, the investment is already proving its worth. "The 12.5 million investment has regenerated a contaminated site, creating approximately 25 million of land value and upwards of 50 million of capital investment for just the site, notwithstanding the huge benefits to the surroundings."

Thames Barrier Park is a simple, square-shaped grass plateau. It is not a traditional English municipal park providing all things to all people. Rather, it is a refreshing example of contemporary modernist park design.

The informal spaces on the plateau conjure up Hampstead Heath in North London; the horticulture displays are a glimpse of Kew Gardens to the West of London, and yet its location next to the vast expanse of the river Thames leaves you with a feeling of peace, openness, and freedom that is rare in the vast conurbation of London.

Don Barker is a freelance writer and photographer in London, UK, who has lived and worked in Europe, Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He is a contributing editor to ArchitectureWeek.

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The visitor center, glazed on three sides, provides shelter during bad weather.
Photo: Martin Charles

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The Royal Victoria Square.
Photo: Peter Cook

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The river promenade.
Photo: Martin Charles

 

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