The retrofit project, which was commissioned by Better Bankside, brings redundant railway arches back into use, creating a community space and a sustainability hub featuring secure cycle parking, a last mile consolidation centre (supporting a cycle courier service) and
an operations base for cleaning and waste recycling service. A third potential project is designed to create suitable workspaces for local micro-enterprises otherwise priced out of local commercial lets. It demonstrates a low-cost and efficient design approach to repurpose vacant railway arches in other urban locations.
The architects have created discrete spaces-within-spaces by placing prefabricated galvanised steel Nissen sheds in the volumes under the two arches. The adapted spaces are now able to accommodate workspaces, meeting rooms, catering or washrooms, or be left as voids to host a variety of uses, including performing and visual arts.
The Low Line is a partnership between Better Bankside, Team London Bridge, Blue Bermondsey, Southwark Council and The Arch Company – who are reimagining the uses of the railway viaduct in partnership with other local stakeholders. The Low Line will ensure that investment in the arches and adjacent sites contributes positively to the neighbourhoods and communities it spans. The initiative is supported with £1 million funding from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund to diversify the occupier mix in the arches, creating new jobs and connecting local communities, and to contribute to a greener, resilient city.
TDO was appointed by Better Bankside and the other Low Line partners in March 2020 to develop and implement creative solutions for the adaptive reuse of empty railway arches
as test bed sites for a range of uses. As spaces are used in new ways, the ambition is for these practical design solutions to retain and celebrate the historic character of the arches, enhancing existing uses and taking advantage of the significant thermal mass of the arches, while providing a benchmark for the regeneration of other arches in the future.
TDO responded to the brief with a design concept which explores the powerful sense of ‘remaining space’ under the Victorian viaducts. Prefabricated galvanised steel Nissen sheds have been installed in the two Bankside arches, as an alternative to filling the envelope of the arch with a fit-out.
Utilising pre-existing technology and a single material unifies the arches and allows for adaptation to different requirements. The sheds are demountable and transferable, cost- efficient and recyclable. Nissen sheds were borne out of demand for accommodation during World War I, and have also been used for industry and agriculture, attesting to their flexibility and economy.
The sheds arrived as components and were assembled in the arches, with as much off-
site manufacture as possible beforehand, reducing programme time and disruption to occupants and neighbours. They sit on precast concrete footings designed to be relocatable. Galvanised steel has also been used for secondary elements such as entry doors, glazing surrounds and exposed services, harmonising the spaces.
The geometry of the sheds reflects the form of the arches, creating dynamic curving
voids between them, which can be used for lighting, services distribution, ventilation and circulation. The contrast between the rough Victorian brick and corrugated galvanised metal is striking. The project has also involved exposing and cleaning as much of the original brickwork in the arches as possible.
TDO was appointed following an invited competitive pitch process. The practice had experience in this specific sector of design, having transformed a Network Rail arch in 2012 to create its own studio in Bankside. The practice’s 2014 Bold Tendencies rooftop gallery pavilion, which experimented with prefabricated corrugated steel structures, was important in demonstrating the viability of the concept.
The Ewer Street arch is now in use by Better Bankside, and Redcross Way offers flexible space for event hire.
The retrofit project, which was commissioned by Better Bankside, brings redundant railway arches back into use, creating a community space and a sustainability hub featuring secure cycle parking, a last mile consolidation centre (supporting a cycle courier service) and an operations base for cleaning and waste recycling service. A third potential project is designed to create suitable workspaces for local micro-enterprises otherwise priced out of local commercial lets. It demonstrates a...
- Year 2022
- Work finished in 2022
- Status Completed works