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Competition: London Works, Woolwich

A student ideas contest has been launched to reinvent underused industrial land in Woolwich, south-east London (Deadline: 7 August)

The competition, backed by Peabody Housing Association, is open to all students and 2017 graduates of architecture and related disciplines. It aims to identify ‘future-proof’ models for productive sites within the UK capital, which are often poorly integrated into the surrounding city and increasingly threatened by residential redevelopment.

The contest seeks ambitious visions to transform the Nathan Way industrial estate into a ‘livelier urban quarter’ that addresses ‘future urban challenges’. 

Nathan Way, Woolwich

Nathan Way, Woolwich

Nathan Way, Woolwich

‘London’s industrial land is vanishing at an accelerating rate—even though demand for work space is rising,’ says the competiton brief. ‘How can we stop the housing crisis being followed by a workspace crisis? London Works is a student competition to design a future-proof model for industrial uses, in a real place and with a real client.

‘The challenge is to develop a vision for productive quarters not as mere utilitarian appendices, but as integrated parts of new and existing London neighbourhoods. How can work space be part of new use mixes at increased densities? How can work space be part of what it takes to create a sustainable community? How can work space positively contribute to a sense of place within the wider neighbourhood?’

Nathan Way, around 2.3km south-east of Woolwich town centre, is a light industrial street featuring various storage, distribution, and food production businesses, alongside a community centre, church and nursery.

The area is bordered to the north by Belmarsh Prison and to the south by the Ridgeway – a raised walkway on top of London’s Southern Outfall Sewer.

Other nearby landmarks include the Brutalist new town of Thamesmead, which is undergoing a £1.5 billion transformation backed by Peabody. The project’s first phase, designed by Proctor & Matthews and Mecanoo, won planning in October.

The competition is organised by urban designer Mark Lemanski who works at muf architecture/art and leads an MA unit at the University of East London.

Teams may feature up to three members with interdisciplinary collaboration encouraged. A full brief, detailing three individual contest sites within Nathan Way, will be published on 26 June.

A nine-strong judging panel will be chaired by Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright, and will feature representatives from Peabody, the Greater London Authority, and Greenwich Council.

There will be a top prize of £1,000, a second prize of £750 and third prize of £500.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is 5pm, 7 August.

Contact details

Email: info@londonworks2017.info

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Mark Lemanski

The organiser discusses his aspirations for the contest

Mark Lemanski

Mark Lemanski

Mark Lemanski

Why are your holding an ideas contest to reimagine Nathan Way in Woolwich?

Nathan Way could be seen as a piece of leftover, underused land in an area of dramatic transformation. On closer looking, it houses a rich compendium of interrelated uses essential to local employment, and representative of the support structure that keeps London working. It is a small site representative of a bigger issue: the loss of workspace in London, a process that has accelerated through an ever increasing demand for housing. The London Works competition forms part of an emerging debate about production as a vital and pleasurable part of urban experience; of London as a heterogeneous place of complementary uses. Proposing a future for Nathan Way is also about the version of London we want to live in.

What would you like to see as the future for sites like this in London?

Areas like Nathan Way are given some protection as Strategic Industrial Locations in the London Plan, but tend to be under-valued by the general public due maybe to a lack of knowledge of what goes on inside. They can be seen as dirty, out of time and place, unsustainable. But these sites are essential to a socially sustainable London offering a wide range of employment opportunities and feeding innovation through cross-fertilisation of different industries, which is key to the advance of climate technology for example. As designers we can help to develop spaces that support these lateral connections among different industries: makers, logistics, waste management, creatives and so on. And to possibly add nurseries, studios, housing and food growing?

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Students interested in a broader interpretations of spatial practice will take this opportunity to test their ideas in practice, and to bounce their ideas off experts, a client and a real site. Participants could win prize money, but of possibly greater value is the ability to engage in an urgent topic, with real-life decision-makers, and to shape your role as an advocate for the type of city you want to inhabit. The competition is set up as a reciprocal process where participants and contributors will learn from each other. For example, primer seminars will allow participants to shape the brief, the jury is public, and the results will be published to further the conversation. We will help progress any of the submission beyond that, ideally into a real project. With the GLA’s Good Growth initiative taking off, it is a good time to reflect on recent growth, which too often has been commodity-driven, and to look at more sustainable alternatives.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects be procured?

Peabody and co-funder Segro are genuinely interested in progressing research on the topic. Peabody has just supported Bow Arts Trust to take on the Lakeside Centre in Thamesmead to develop an interesting mix of uses comprising affordable artist workspaces, a nursery, a social enterprise restaurant, and live/work spaces. Segro has commissioned and published research into the value of industrial spaces.

Are there any other similar industrial land upgrades you have been impressed by?

There are several forthcoming schemes that combine housing with industry, such as Albert Wharf and Cringle Dock, but these appear to be land-value driven. There aren’t as yet many schemes that enjoy the relationship between different uses a bit more. I think the Camley Street Community Land Trust is an interesting model because it is driven by residents and businesses with shared idealism about a combined future of their respective habitats.

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