Pier Head

Wapping, London

Client

Greater London Authority

Summary

The river Thames and the wider ‘Blue Ribbon Network’ touch the lives of all Londoners both city-wide and at the level of the everyday. The Pier Head at Wapping shows how river infrastructure and water itself can be used to build adaptable, people centric spaces; an accompanying Public Art Strategy would offer a vision for how artists can help shape the city’s relationship with the river and build its identity and appeal. 
 

Public Open Space Strategy

The Pier Head is a tranquil, heritage environment that possesses many of the physical attributes of a high quality space; Plan Projects' solution is to preserve these qualities while opening the site up to more active use by stitching back into the lives of the communities close by. We have assessed the potential of the site according to three key drivers: community space, ecology and sense of 'delight'. Our design proposals have sought ways to optimise the performance of the space across these three realms. 
 

Community

  • Opening up the space for community use
  • Enabling communties to access the water and beach
  • Re-prioritising walking links over parking
  • Shared space concept where people and vehicles co-exist
  • New Play areas linked to well-used community facilities
  • Multifunctional, playable space for performance, market and fairs or quiet enjoyment

Ecology

  • Re-engagement with tidal nature of the river
  • River is allowed to wash into the dock pool thereby bringing river ecology into the space creating urban 'rock' pool
  • Reed rafts soften the edges of the pool and provide habitat for water foul

Delight

  • Vistas opened up to the river
  • Mini piers allow opportunities to engage with the water
  • Bridges built into the carriageway enable those just passing through momentary opportunitiues for fleeting delight
  • Well designed public space with high quality furniture and planting 
  • Working with artists on individual forms to bring idiosycrasies into the site.
Furthermore, the Pier Head is currently a fragmented space, cut off visually from the Thames and from desire lines East/West along Wapping High Street and Scandrett Street and North/South from Scandrett Street to Wapping High Street and the Thames Embankment. There are multiple opportunities for joining up isolated or under used patches of public space, such as the  tidal beach, the Wapping Steps and the area in the vicinity of St. John’s Churchyard and the community hub of the Turks Head Cafe, and for reinstating lost public paths. In addition, the under-canopy vegetation offers no delight and blocks site and desire lines; the result is a confused space making it difficult to navigate and to use.
 

Design response

The proposed design centres on the partial restoration of the dock to form an urban ‘rock pool’ fed by the tidal Thames. There are multiple opportunities to engage with the water; by access to the beach, via the two new bridges or through the dipping platforms or mini-piers. The adjacent properties have new front gardens bounded by the re-located metal railings which aff ord a buff er zone to the new public open space. Directly to the North of the site is a new treeshaded plaza, which forms an attractive, multifunctional space in an area which is currently a carpark but also functions as a well-used cut through. 
 
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