BFI IMAX London
South Bank Centre Contemporary Cinema in south London, England – design by Avery Associates
Location: just east of Waterloo Station, South Bank
The BFI London IMAX Cinema – Building Information
Title: The BFI London IMAX Cinema
Client: British Film Institute
Cost: £12m (Arts Council of England lottery Funded)
British Construction industry Award 1999
Millennium Products Award 1999
FX International Interior Design Award 1999
Comedia ‘Creative City’ Award 2000 for Urban Innovation Civic Trust Award 2000
National Drywall Award 2001
London is the capital city of England and of the United Kingdom. It is the most populous region, urban zone and metropolitan area in the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its founding by the Romans. London has always been a leading global city, with strengths in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transport all contributing to its prominence. It is one of the world’s leading financial centers and has the fifth or sixth largest metropolitan area in the world depending on measurement. London is a world cultural capital. It is the world’s most-visited city as measured by international arrivals and has the world’s largest city airport system measured by passenger traffic. London has a diverse range of peoples and cultures, and more than 300 languages are spoken within its boundaries. London had an official population of 8,308,369 in 2012, making it the most populous municipality in the European Union, and accounting for 12.5% of the UK population. The Greater London Urban Area is the second-largest in the EU with a population of 9,787,426 according to the 2011 census. Theis the largest in the EU with a total population of 13,614,409, while the Greater London Authority puts the population of London metropolitan region at 21 million. Back in the 90’s – a little history Situated in the south-central part of London, officially, the IMAX cinema opened in 1999 as part of the regeneration plan of the London’s district -South Bank, in the 1990′s. However, there is also a glossed over history, that makes the IMAX probably one of London’s more controversial entertainment spots. Before the roundabout was known as the IMAX roundabout, this was the Waterloo Bullring. In the mid-1980s the site beneath the pedestrian underpasses of the Bullring roundabout, was home to up to 200 people sleeping rough in cardboard boxes. It became a symbol of society’s failure to eradicate homelessness. And till the mid-1990′s, it was home to a lot of rough sleepers. This place was known as the “cardboard city”, and was uncomfortable eyesore to the millions of commuters who passed through nearby Waterloo each day. So, in the 1990′s, the movies had to come first, regeneration was the key, and anything not deemed pretty was bulldozed out of sight…
2-3. More images of the roundabout (Note: those images were taken prior to the construction of the
THE FIRST IDEAS So, in May 1999, by the revitalization plan of Waterloo and South Bank, emerged the project for the IMAX cinema, and it was built for the British Film Institute (BFI). It is by far, the largest screen cinema in Britain, and one of the biggest in the world. The £12 million IMAX cinema near London’s Waterloo Station was designed by Avery Associates. Built on a sunken traffic island on one of the main routes into London, the building was conceived as a garden ‘oasis’ within the bleak concrete environment of the South Bank. The original design was a box. It had a square auditorium, and it could be prefabricated to create the kind of structure which goes to expo sites. It was over clad with a metal frame and it had a hydroponic water feed which spiraled down the building from which the plants (Japanese honeysuckle) grew over the frame like a shaggy carpet. It would have required an electronic hedge clipper to give the entire thing a haircut every month. The whole idea of the design was to contrast the man-made concrete of the South Bank with a completely planted rotunda. (A rotunda (from Latin rotundus) is any building with a circular ground plan, sometimes covered by a dome. It can also refer to a round room within a building. The Pantheonin Rome is a famous rotunda. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotunda_(architecture))) However, the planners were deeply resistant to the idea of vegetation –( Image 7 below). They said: ‘Can’t you make it look more like a building?’ So the architects pared it down and placed emphasis on the internal cylinder which contains the cinema facilities. Then the planners said ‘It looks like a derelict gasholder now,’ and I kind of agreed. So again, they pared it down and filled the frame with backlit images, which gave it a more cinematic feel –( Image 8 below). A leisure consultant said: ‘If you could make this look like an IMAX, you would probably get an extra 2,000 people per year coming through its doors.’ You could effectively spend an extra £1 million and an extra three months on the project on the basis that you would get
an extra 2,000 people visiting a year.
7/8. Early design proposals showing the building fully and partially covered in vegetation.
Bryan Avery, the architect, tried to imagine what you might associate with an IMAX – a mental picture. This had to be cultural as opposed to commercial. It’s a formal public building as opposed to a private one. The concept of a place of assembly underpins the idea of the dome – the rotunda. It is a digital place of assembly. It has to be high-tech as IMAX is about advanced technology. It can’t have windows. Its scale has to be big because it’s a big screen. It’s over 20m high and 26m wide; it’s the largest screen in Britain. The auditorium houses 482 people. It also, of course, has to say something about film. It is almost like a zoetrope frieze, the earliest version of film. “With a zoetrope, you spin it and see action frozen inside. But, this is the opposite: you put a building in the centre of a roundabout.” – says the architect. You still get the feeling of movement, but the building remains static while the observer drives around it. Bryan Avery also says: “I liked the concept of the merry-go-round, a roundabout within a roundabout. The architectural language has the playfulness of the merry-go-round. It’s a form of entertainment and we are also dealing with a form of entertainment. Carousels are like projectors, so it all ties back to film. Obviously, in urban terms, putting something into a roundabout is interesting.”
THE ACTUAL AND FINAL BUILDING
The building consists of a circular drum approximately 40m in diameter and six storeys high providing an enclosure to house the auditorium. The perimeter structure is circular on plan and provides a gallery behind the glass cladding. Internally the majority of the space is devoted to the auditorium with other areas providing circulation, reception and plant areas. The site is in the middle of one of London’s busiest roundabouts and as if the headache of site deliveries was not enough, a network of tunnels beneath the site made the foundation design a nightmare. Two Waterloo and City Line Underground tunnels run through the center of the site at a depth of approximately 4.5m. At the south end of the site a main sewer and a BT duct infringe on the building’s footprint requiring the foundations to span up to 23m to avoid the obstructions. The solution was to provide a thick concrete slab supported on piles located where there was space to locate them. As there was no direct access by road to the site an elevated steel gantry was provided at road level which allowed traffic to enter from the roundabout to deliver materials. The gantry was designed to accept only a single wagon and there were restrictions on the hours during which deliveries could be made. In order to provide acoustic isolation of the auditorium from ground-borne vibration, spring mounts have been installed between the soffit of the first floor and the heads of the ground floor columns. The structure above the first floor podium slab is a structural steel frame. The upper floor areas are constructed using lightweight concrete cast onto profile steel sheeting.
11. Pictures of the building process.
The floor beams are designed to act compositely with the slab to give economies in the weight of steel. A steel frame was adopted to achieve a light-weight solution, to minimize foundation loads, and to accommodate the large clear spans required above and below the main auditorium. A steel frame also minimizes site operations and provided a more buildable solution for such a restricted site. A ring of Universal Column sections around the perimeter of the auditorium extends up the full height of the building to support the roof. Ten radial lattice trusses span 39m between these columns and connect together at a central node. Secondary steelwork and bracing provided across the top and bottom chords provide stability and support the roof cladding and ceiling construction. The auditorium terrace slab is supported on raking steel lattice trusses and cranked Universal Beam sections having Spans in excess of 12,5m. The lateral stability of the structure is achieved by cross bracing elements. The radial layout of the roof structure acts as a braced plate. The floor slabs act as diaphragms transferring horizontal loads to the perimeter wall. Several bays of vertical cross bracing located between the main columns transfer the loads down to the first floor concrete plate. The roof and certain areas of flooring containing plant and projection rooms are higher than five storeys and as such were designed to meet the requirements for key elements. A perimeter valance truss provided within the eaves facade would act to transfer loads in the event of the loss of any one column. The external glass wall is supported from fabricated 300 x 740 hollow oval section columns each hanging off a gallows bracket which cantilevers off the main roof support columns at high level. These gallows brackets are formed from a 114 mm diameter CHS tie and a tapered steel box section strut with single pin connections. The tapered oval section glazing arms are solid carbon steel castings.
Here are some words from architect Bryan Avery in which he describes some problems and strategies about the building part of the project, he says: “Interesting thing about steel is the acoustics issue. It was a big problem for them because they had to cope with noise both externally and from below – the Tube runs directly beneath. We could not get a grasp on how much we should spend on acoustic insulation. If you ask anyone about it, they will say ‘we want it to be perfectly quiet, but it’s difficult to know what that means. We went to IMAX in Bradford and watched some films while recording our perceptions of external noise by pressing a button on an electronic counter – every time we felt the level of noise intruded on a film we pressed the button. By experimenting with different levels of noise, and taking into account different types of film and soundtrack we arrived at a level of attenuation which was acceptable to all parties, the point at which we stopped pressing the button and said ‘that’s it!’. The outer glass wall is separated from the inner wall by a continuous circular gallery, so that it provides a buffer zone from the traffic noise. The inner wall is made of two skins of multi-layered plasterboard. There are acoustic absorbents on some of the interior surfaces. The acoustics have worked well, which was one of my main concerns. It is very quiet inside. There have not been too many technical problems at all. The only remedial work that I know about has been to the handrails of the balustrades. The staircases have light wells, to create a proper Pirenesian space. The balustrades were very thin and kids were sliding down the banisters on their way out, so they had to do something about that. The building is due for a makeover internally, but if the standard of makeovers at the NFT is anything to go by, this should endow it with all the style and panache of a second-rate suburban multiplex. The external glazing and the auditorium are suspended from the steel frame to isolate them from vibrations of the road and the Tube. It is concrete at the base, and that’s because underneath it we have the Waterloo and City line. But not all of the tunnels are cut and fill. Some of them are only 34m down, so we could not put any weight on them and had to span across. There are piles down to 20m, and then the basement structure is concrete, with spring dampers on top. The whole body of the building sits on these springs. What the concrete did for me architecturally was to give a podium that forms a solid base and makes a wonderful walkway with the pergola above. Now the vegetation has grown over it, it’s quite a special space. The external supports aren’t actually supporting any weight at all. They’re not supporting the weight of the wall, they’re just there to stop the whole thing wandering about. That’s how you get them to look so slim, in addition to taking a circle and banging it, so they’re slightly ovoid.”
12. Floor Plan and Section of the building
Environmental benefits Even though most people were quite skeptical when the idea about vegetation was initially proposed, with the time it has proven to be applicable even into a strictly urban environment, in the heart of the big city. The plants successfully reduce the level of noise and pollution, by absorbing carbon dioxide and harmful gases from the cars passing by. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the flora managed to survive in spite of the hostile environment around it, which once more proves that plants are a long term environmental “investment” – just like the author of the project says “A bit of planting goes a long way”.
Economic benefits In parallel with the development of the project, came the idea that the façade of the building could be used as a canvas for a giant artwork that would say something about the South Bank. This idea was born from the fact that for many years it was all public open space, serving a strictly civic function. Because of that, the process of transformation had to be made easier to accept and “digestible” by the general public. Even though the initial idea didn’t work as planned, last year IMAX resurrected it by coming to the realization that this is a good way of making additional money – they signed a contract with an advertising factor, turning the building into a giant billboard.
Cultural and social benefits As there is a very clear distinction, in cultural terms, between conventional and IMAX cinemas this inevitably led to the need for the building’s design to be adjusted not only to suit the requirements and the specificity of the project but also to blend smoothly into the area around. Just like IMAX was something new at that moment so did emerged the need for this to be reflected on the design on the building. The truth is that people go to the cinema for two reasons – social and spectacle. It’s not just to do with film. It’s to do with a sense of occasion. And this sense is definitely created, more or less, by the building itself. In other words – you are going to experience something new at a place that clearly states it (and predisposes you to feel like a pioneer and discoverer.)
Conclusions The public spaces around the base of the building were no less important. The aim was to counterpoint the bleak concrete fastnesses of the South Bank with a new garden ‘oasis’, like Xanadu, a fabulously planted space at the end of the labyrinth of tunnels. The form of the building responds to the hostile acoustic environment too. The site is a sunken traffic island on one of the main routes into London and is completely surrounded by traffic. The full height glazed gallery not only provides an added zone of acoustic separation but also expresses externally the character of the activities within. The project has been an enormous success. Not only does the cinema consistently attract the highest attendances for the films shown there, but with the burgeoning of the vegetation has come a regeneration of the whole area.
PART TWO – THE CONTEXT
Following the publication of the Mayor of London’s Waterloo Opportunity Area Planning Framework, South Bank Employers’ Group has launched a contest to find a design team to create a new City Square in Waterloo. The new Waterloo Opportunity Area Planning Framework follows the draft Waterloo Development Framework published in February 2006 and will serve as a blueprint for development in the area over the coming years. Proposals include reworking the IMAX roundabout to create a new city square and the removal of private cars from Waterloo Road to give priority to pedestrians, buses and the Cross River Tram. The Mayor is also encouraging the development of new “world-class” tall buildings around and above the station and along the “commercial spine” behind the riverside. Here are some words from the mayor of London, Mr Livingstone: “Waterloo welcomes millions of people to London every year, and recently has been a subject to a multi-million pound makeover to ensure it retains its unique status as one of London’s most popular attractions. It is vital that we improve the attractiveness of the station and its surroundings, making the most of the whole neighborhood and stitching all of its individual parts together. We can only achieve this through careful planning over the next generation. If we can do this, the prize will be thousands of new homes and jobs for Waterloo and great improvements to its layout and public space, making it more attractive, vibrant and easier to get around. The area covered by the framework includes Waterloo Station and the South Bank from St Thomas’ Hospital to Gabriel’s Wharf. This is identified as an ‘opportunity area’ for new homes and jobs in the Mayor’s London Plan. Network Rail – which is due to bring forward its own proposals for a major rebuild of Waterloo Station – has welcomed the Mayor’s document: “Its vision and objectives for Waterloo are closely connected with our strategy for Waterloo Station and its immediate surrounding area,” says Robin Gisby. “Network Rail will shortly be commissioning consultants to further develop options for the Station – this can now take place in the context of the adopted framework. Network Rail looks forward to continue joint working with stakeholders as plans move forward. Paul McGlone, Lambeth Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “It represents the beginning of an exciting new era for the future development and regeneration of this part of the borough, and the wealth it generates will benefit the entire Lambeth area and local communities. The planned new jobs and homes together with public realm improvements will cement Waterloo’s place firmly as an integral part of inner-London’s economy.”
The framework is summarized in the following ‘vision’: “To give Waterloo a new ‘City Square’ to create a radically improved public space, to improve permeability to and within the area and provide new development principally in the area around and above Waterloo Station.”
How the vision will be achieved
The document sets eight objectives to achieve the vision: • A new ‘City Square’ and interchange space for Waterloo to create a vastly improved public space around the station. • Remove general traffic from Waterloo Road and give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. • Redevelop and redefine Waterloo Station so that it becomes for a new centre for the area. • Use the public realm to bring the different parts of Waterloo together and address pedestrian movement/connections. • Support the world class cultural quarter at the Riverside and use it as a motor for regeneration. • Maximise development potential. • Allow for incremental change. • Preserve and enhance the key features of each of Waterloo’s character areas.
November 2007 – former London Mayor Ken Livingstone reveals plans for a £2bn makeover of Waterloo Station and surrounding area. A tender is issued for a two-stage competition to find a design team
December 2007 – the deadline for design submissions to the judging panel
August 2008 – a four-strong design shortlist is revealed
Winter 2008 – a planned public display of the four shortlisted design concepts before the winning company is chosen
31 January 2009 – Three top architects will be unveiling their design concepts for Waterloo City Square at a public consultation.
EARLY PLANNING AND NEGOTIATIONS
It’s not often that London’s major public spaces get a makeover. Now a less glamorous area, but no less important to huge numbers of Londoners, starts its new renovation. This is the roundabout outside Waterloo Station with the IMAX in its middle, together with the shards of space that adjoin it. This zone, an ill-considered by-product of Sixties transport engineering, is at the wrong end of London’s steepest gradient from sublime to hideous. The roundabout, by contrast, is one of the most hellish parts of the capital, where the flow of people is treated as a problem of drainage, where normal human expectations of movement through a city are methodically thwarted, as if we were subjects of an experiment in disorientation. You feel like either a sewer rat or a laboratory rat, never like a person. Now a design competition has been held for its improvement and a winner announced the sparky, youngish practice of Deborah Saunt and David Hills Architects (DSDHA). Their plans unveiled, show believable, sensible and sensitive ideas for civilising the territory between Waterloo Station and Waterloo Bridge. “By instinct, people always choose to go on the ground, and choose to walk together,” says Saunt. She plans to do away with the grim underpasses that characterise the site. At present the place is bewildering to anyone who hasn’t been there before. The architects also want to “make it really clear where you go”. They therefore propose to tidy up the mess as you leave the main exit of Waterloo Station and make it more pedestrian-friendly. They want to open up views towards the river through the railway arches. They plan to widen the pavements in Waterloo Road and improve connections to the backlands of the station. They also want to make the bridge itself, now something of a racetrack for traffic, more easy to enjoy. They want wider pavements, benches, and crossings for pedestrians. The IMAX would be wrapped in an interactive screen, rather than the giant advertising billboard that now circles it. The paving finishes are yet to be designed in detail, but they would have a certain roughness, intended to evoke the natural landscape buried under all the building at Waterloo, rather than the slick surfaces you get at modern developments such as Canary Wharf and More London. The DSDHA plan, pivots on the roundabout, which the architects say should be replaced with two-way traffic on three sides, with the fourth pedestrianised, allowing people to flow from the station into this space newly freed from traffic. From here you will be able either to cross the road directly onto the bridge, or take a broad ramp down to the river frontage by the National Theatre. The existing roundabout, apparently, is not used to capacity, and DSDHA are working with a traffic expert at the giant engineering consultancy Atkins to ensure that: “we don’t have a scheme that has a negative effect on anyone. Everyone gets a better deal.” The proposal could be part of a truly enormous makeover of the entire station and its surroundings. Network Rail wants to bring longer trains to Waterloo, which would require longer platforms eating up what is now the concourse. This in turn means that the concourse will be placed at ground level, underneath the tracks. The vast undercroft, including the abandoned spaces of the old Eurostar terminal, could then be opened up in the way that has been so successful with the vaults at St Pancras. Then the colossal impenetrable object that is the station, currently a big black blot on the map, could be permeated. The strange disconnection between the river side of the station and the half-forgotten streets behind it would be removed. The gradual improvements that have been happening at the Southbank Centre and the long-awaited makeover of Jubilee Gardens – adjacent to the London Eye – would join up with the transformed roundabout and station. The effects of negligent traffic engineers in making the station and the roundabout would at last be erased. FUNDING ISSUES AND OTHER CONTROVERSIES Transport for London, the London Development Agency, the South Bank Employers’ Group and myriad other groups with an interest in the area, have been working together to get this far. As 300,000 commuters pass through the station every day, a revamp could hardly benefit more people, and the cost – an estimated £25 million for the DSDHA scheme – is not enormous. The question is how it gets paid for. The traditional London way of improving public space has been to get most of the money by way of what are called Section 106 agreements. These extract cash from private developers as a condition of planning permission: the deal is that they are allowed to build the office blocks they want but they have to pay for some nice paving somewhere nearby. The funding is not yet in place for the DSDHA plan, but the organizations backing it know that there is no hope of attracting money if they have no proposals to wave in front of prospective investors. Like would-be improvers all over London, they have to go through the expensive and convoluted business of hiring consultants, running competitions and generating enthusiasm just to get to the starting line. It is a spectacularly inefficient process, not just financially but also in terms of wasted energy and disappointed hopes. It is the main reason why there is only the merest trickle of genuine improvements to London’s streets and squares, and why Ken Livingstone’s plan for 100 new public spaces never got out of single figures. Yet a design competition, a public consultation, and the delicate images produced by DSDHA, should not be needed to point out the bleeding obvious fact that Waterloo roundabout needs improving. If the money has to be found eventually, the Mayor should be able to announce up front that it will come from whatever pot is available to him. It is also striking that the “Sixties traffic engineers” who created the problem of the roundabout in the first place had to endure no such protracted process. Thanks to the prestige that projects for cars commanded, money was made available and the road builders could get on with the job.
Fighting off competition from Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and EDAW, DSDHA has been selected to rethink the ugly and inaccessible street design in and around the IMAX roundabout, Waterloo Road and Waterloo Station to create a better experience for all users. Despite huge improvements since the ‘cardboard city’ days, the confusing labyrinth of streets and subways remains unwelcoming, unattractive and often feels unsafe. Both the local community and the judging panel selected DSDHA as the best team for the job of revitalising this critical part of central London and creating an appropriate gateway to the South Bank’s cultural institutions and popular visitor attractions.
Over 1700 people took part in the local consultation which gave residents and employees the opportunity to meet each of the shortlisted design teams face to face and to evaluate their concepts. Participants scored each team against a range of criteria, considering how well they had met the design brief. In the opinion of local people, DSDHA and their thinking showed particular strengths in making the area more attractive and better connected as well as safer and more pleasant for pedestrians and simpler to change mode of transport.
DSDHA’s winning design for Waterloo City Square
THE STRATEGIES OF DSDHA
Deborah Saunt, co-founder of DSDHA comments: “We recognize Waterloo as one of the most important public spaces in the country, serving the busiest station in the UK with over 300,000 commuters each day, as well as being the gateway to London’s South Bank and home to thousands of local residents. For us, this is a unique opportunity. Waterloo is a meeting place for people, journeys and identities. We hope to create seamless connections at ground level to allow dignified access for everyone to all local spaces – from The Cut to the South Bank, King’s College London to Lower Marsh, Coin Street to Waterloo Station. The labyrinth of underpasses will be a thing of the past and the IMAX will finally be able to takes its place as a landmark at the heart of the area. This will be an incredibly important project to DSDHA, and we look forward to collaborating with stakeholders and the local community to realize our vision for this area and to consolidate the importance of Waterloo to central London, the outer boroughs and beyond.” This is how the architects describe their winning design: “Where the obelisk at St Georges Circus marks the entrance to London, the BFI IMAX on Waterloo Circus will claim its significance as the identifiable entrance to the Cultural Quarter of the South Bank for local residents, tourists and commuters. With the recent advancements in 4d technology, the BFI IMAX has finally come of age. We have carved, remodeled and overclad the existing building with a dynamic digital screen which reflects both its dynamic future and the richness of its connection to the BFI and the culture of film. By instinct people choose to walk on the ground. The IMAX is given a new street level entrance and visible connections are carved through the site to give presence and identity to each of the buildings addressing Waterloo Circus. Existing streetscapes have been decluttered, with new crossings and a unified surface creating unhindered safe access to all transport modes and destinations from the river to the Old Vic Theatre. The ground is gracefully unfolded around the BFI IMAX to create a seamless new connection to its lower entrance and onwards to engage King’s College London, the proposed Doon Street development and the South Bank. This new route replaces the existing labyrinth of subterranean routes with a continuous line of cultural and commercial activity from The Cut, through Waterloo Circus to the Thames at National Theatre Square, bringing together new and existing life.”
DSDHA’s winning design for Waterloo City Square
The judging panel was chaired by Peter Bishop, Group Director of Design, Development and Environment, London Development Agency. Commenting on the scheme he said: “By working together, the public and private sectors have come up with a clear plan to regenerate Waterloo City Square that is backed by local businesses and residents. We want to get the area designed and transform the experience of visitors, where people can enjoy moving around the area – especially from Waterloo Station to the attractions on the South Bank.” “We are focused on attracting investment into this area and believe that the regeneration of the spaces around Waterloo Station is critical to future growth. We are confident that by adopting the practical approach of phased delivery, we will be in a position to deliver significant improvements over the next 5 years and are looking forward to working with DSDHA and the LDA on this scheme.” says Ted Inman, Chief Executive, South Bank Employers’ Group which is managing the project. It is anticipated that a final design will be submitted to planning at the end of the year, following further in-depth consultation with all stakeholders including local residents, employees and businesses. The various consultation activities will be promoted throughout the area.
– Local residents, employees, commuters and visitors
– Greater London Authority
– London Development Agency
– Transport for London
– London Borough of Lambeth
– British Film Institute
– Coin Street Community Builders
– P&O Estates
– CABE (space)
– Network Rail
– Southbank Centre
– King’s College London
– St John’s Church
– National Theatre and Shell.
* The design competition was funded by London Development Agency and P&O Estates.
Bringing the West End closer to the South Bank, Waterloo City Square will become a focus of activity in London’s most vibrant cultural district. Adjacent to Waterloo Station, this new high-quality public space will be an exciting addition to the amenities of the South Bank and will change the balance between traffic and pedestrians to create a highly accessible space. The contemporary square will be an attractive destination with shops, cafes and entertainment, it will incorporate improved facilities for public transport users, provide clear circulation routes to the riverfront and create an important new London square for the local community, commuters and tourists. The work, to be completed in phases, begins by redesigning the road system to run east of the BFI IMAX cinema. This eases congestion and creates a splendid new forecourt to the east of Waterloo Station. The existing tangle of underpasses and walkways will be replaced by clear pedestrian routes and new vistas into and out of the square. Later phases could include building a landmark tower on the site. Full social, economic and environmental sustainability including the careful use of natural materials and innovative water management, will be incorporated from the start of the project.
Shortlisted design by EDAW
Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands PROPOSAL
The area immediately outside Waterloo Station, one of the busiest in Europe, should lead people easily into the surrounding areas and onwards to other destinations. Instead passage for commuters and residents is discouraged by wide streets full of traffic at ground level or a dingy basement route to the South Bank via the BFI IMAX Cinema. We propose closing the subway and creating surface crossings across narrowed roads. Instead of a sea of tarmac between the IMAX and its surroundings there will be a generous public space around the cinema with a prominent ground level entrance. This forms the hub of the scheme. Immediately to the south is a new bus station on Tenison Way; a much more generous arrangement than the few existing bus stops on a narrow spit of land. Extending across the site, Waterloo Road and Waterloo Bridge are realigned to create a continuous, coherent route with activated shop fronts and coordinated bus stops along its length. This is a key axis of the scheme. Five ‘pocket’ parks at the periphery of the site connect to the surroundings. These include Emma Cons Gardens to the south, a new square at the proposed Doon Street development to the north and a new piazza in front of the Station. All the proposals also include possible development of the IMAX – Should the cinema be relocated into a new BFI complex? In this case a tall structure on this central site forms the significant element in a cluster of new buildings around the station. Additional development is feasible on the bus station site at Tenison Way and the buses relocated to Waterloo Road. A mid height development with a central winter garden help define the road and provides an exciting covered public space opposite St John’s Waterloo. “We are inviting local residents and employees who use these streets and subways all the time to share their views on the initial concepts. Their insight is hugely valuable and we appreciate any time people can spare.” says Ted Inman, Chief Executive of South Bank Employers’ Group which has been appointed to manage the design competition in behalf of the London Development Agency. Following the consultation, the judging panel will meet to consider the design teams’ entries, taking into account the results of the public consultation and technical panel review. A decision is expected in March 2009.
Cultural and social benefits
Despite the huge improvements that Waterloo has gone through in the past decades, the confusing labyrinth of streets and subways remains unwelcoming, unattractive and often feels unsafe – it drags you in the standard urban scenario where time and space are limited. The main idea of the project is to open spaces, to make the area more pedestrian friendly and to allow freedom of movement, removing the tense feeling of being a lab rat in one of the busiest parts of London. This will be achieved by changing the balance between traffic and pedestrians to create a highly accessible space, thus making the area more attractive and better connected as well as safer and more pleasant. An area that will give you the opportunity to rather flow, than simply move. After all, Waterloo is a meeting place for people, journeys and identities and it should state that clearly.
Environmental benefits In times of dwindling resources and pressing environmental problems, the issue of sustainability plays an important role in future-proof architecture. In a major and promising project like this one the environmental aspect cannot and should not be disregarded. Environmental sustainability, including the careful use of natural materials and innovative water management, will be incorporated from the start of the project with the tendency of seeking alternative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle, as far as it’s possible.
Economic benefits Having in mind the fact that the project is not aimed towards direct future profits, but rather than that a “remake” that will stimulate the Flourishing of Waterloo as a region, we cannot outline clear economic benefits. However, if the zone is transformed into a more friendly place to live and work, this might indirectly contribute in long term. When it comes to money, I believe, Robin Gisby’s statements sums it all: “The planned new jobs and homes together with public realm improvements will cement Waterloo’s place firmly as an integral part of inner-London’s economy.”