The London Docks - importing tobacco from Virginia, tea from Assam, rum from the Caribbean, porcelain from China, slaves, timber, food, rare minerals – were the commercial hub of an empire with domination of the sea. Goods and people from all over the world met on the Thames or around the nearby docks. The dockers who unloaded all this wealth were themselves from varied cultures but were poorly paid. This centre of prosperity died: the work of unloading ships moved elsewhere, some of the original docks were filled in and the area became a wasteland; the dockers were unemployed and areas like Wapping declined. Redevelopment was undertaken: a new financial district, expensive housing and a realisation that the water in the old docks was an asset (with the potential to make an environment like Venice). However the local population is still deprived, and there seems to be a strong sense of two different cultures in the area. Shadwell basin, the site for the project, is typical of what has happened.
Shadwell Basin formed the eastern entry to London Docks and will be the location for the project. Unlike most of the London Docks, Shadwell Basin was not infilled and today is a popular site for recreation. An Outdoor Activity Centre is located at the Pierhead and a former pumping station has been converted into The Wapping Project - an arts venue and restaurant. Joggers, cyclists, walkers and anglers make regular use of the site,which now forms an important part of the Thames Path. Expensive housing dominates the immediate area,however Tower Hamlets remained one of London’s most deprived boroughs and this extreme economic inequality provides an important context for the project.
The site for the project is located on a peninsula jutting into the basin. Nearby are a number of important social ‘institutions’, or ‘condensers’ that bring people from disparate locations and social classes together.
The task is to develop a proposal for a building and landscape to be located on the peninsula and:
[A] be used as a training and media centre for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic canoeing and kayaking
[B] have a legacy after the events of 2012
a place for eating and drinking and media interviews
a small auditorium/ press room with approx 50 seats
a space where exhibitions about Olympic/ Paralympic history and activities can be staged
flexible workspace which can be used to service, maintain and store equipement including canoes