Architecture | Urbanism | Participation

Thamesmead Waterfront

We are delighted to be part of Prior and Partner’s energetic and creative team and together to have won the £8bn Thamesmead Waterfront international competition. Our long tradition of working together on trailblazing projects – at Kings Cross, the Olympic and post-Olympic masterplans and in North Essex, had those garden communities gone ahead, continues with Thamesmead. What makes this win even more extraordinary is that our team enjoyed the unanimous support of the interview panel, and scored higher than all other competitors in all categories. A resounding win with the level of competition faced, is an extraordinary achievement.

Also extraordinary is the team’s total commitment to effective co-design and engagement. In steering and leading the codesign process Soundings had to marshal a ‘Creative Engagement Team’ consisting of JA Projects, the Place Bureau, Turner Projects, Sage Culture and Work Wild. We also built strong links with Carl Turner of Turner Works, and with Marc Keohler Architects who will work together with Alison Brooks to offer digitally sourced, bespoke housing offers – what he refers to as ‘housing +’ within a ‘living neighbourhood’. This collaborative and co-creative approach appears to have been well recognised. Feedback from the jury noted that “This is a highly credible team that scored better than the other teams on all measures. Its excellent knowledge of Thamesmead and the creative approach to community engagement were both exciting and reassuring ….. its approach to the inter-disciplinary nature of masterplanning was demonstrated through an inclusive and flexible framework that would allow others to contribute; its offer was underpinned by strong technical knowledge but balanced with an open and innovative approach …. it offered the “right mix of poetry and prose”’.

As reported in the AJ (AJ On-Line – 29 April, 2021), this massive project has the potential to be a game changer in the way masterplans are developed and delivered. The shared vision is of microplanning driving, situating and testing macroplanning (see ‘Micro to Macro’ images below showing how videographies of everyday life will be a key means of understanding place and aspirations, building narratives and informing scenario planning to lead to a sensitised masterplan built around ‘platform’ projects). As part of this, buildings and structures will emerge directly from indigenous events, cultures and institutions through ‘seeding’ design, meanwhile structures and platform projects; the latter being exemplary and pioneering co-designed buildings and places, which will help to particularise and anchor the wider masterplan. So we can expect a kayak club to morph into a treasured sporting tradition, local ‘global’ food to be celebrated and enjoyed and local radio station RTM FM and TACO (Thamesmead Arts and Cultural Organisation) to move into a more significant, public building. Micro to Macro will be played out in the housing, the landscapes, the cultural offer and the growth of the local economy. The future will be rooted in givens to build a particular, highly nuanced place. It may be among the first to use digital processes to build communities.

As well as the socialisation of design, the team will explore how digital processes and modular but bespoke housing assemblies can be pushed further, to finally unleash potentials that have been building for the past two decades. We can’t wait to get stuck in.

Soundings/Fluid. A merger of the two companies to enable a pooling of creative placemaking talent, co-design expertise and people focused ambition has been on the cards for a while. Thamesmead Waterfront offers the perfect opportunity to utilise these skills to best effect.

Peabody’s John Lewis said ‘We now have an opportunity for genuine place-making with cultural curation, leisure, connectivity, sustainability and wellbeing at the forefront of our thinking. Putting people first, we want to create a wonderful new mixed-use town centre for Thamesmead, with an approach that complements the wider regeneration of the town.’

The shortlist

  • [WINNER] Prior + Partners with Arup, and West 8; The Place Bureau; Alison Brooks Architects; Turner Works; Marc Koehler Architects; JA Projects; Schulze+Grassov; Soundings; Sage Culture; WorkWild; and London Wildlife Trust
  • Allies and Morrison with Jas Bhalla Architects; SLA; Ramboll; Montagu Evans; and Frances Holliss
  • Studio Egret West and Cobe with Dark Matter Labs; Studio Weave; Freehaus Design; Yinka Ilori Studio; AKTII; Hilson Moran; and Biomatrix Water
  • Urban Orchestra, led by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, Mikhail Riches, Haptic and Expedition with Create Culture; Gardiner & Theobald; Gibson Thornley; GS Solutions; Innovation First; Kjellander Sjöberg; LOLA; Madeleine Kessler Architects; Mary Duggan Architects; Nick Elias Studio; Nordic – Office of Architecture; William Matthews Architects and ZCD Architects
  • White Arkitekter with Publica; Tredje Natur; Central Saint Martins; Public Works; Bohn & Viljoen; Buro Happold; GL Hearn; and Aurora



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