The Urban Pier

A new urban adult-playground in the sterile area of London's South Kensington, which reveals a hidden site over the tube tracks and provides space for various activities from unusual character...

 
 
 "Wasted Space" is the first introductory project at the RCA. The brief was set to utilize a "forgotten" by locals and unknown to passers by piece of land over the tracks of South Kensington Station.
   Our group challenged the brief’s assertion that the site is ‘wasted’ and ‘under-utilized’ and instead, wanted to protect the existing program: a local, small-scale, three-generational family business... of the kind that is rapidly disappearing from central London. Resisting the developers urge to either wipe the slate clean, or force growth and expansion, we preserved the business as it is; recognizing that it’s thriving without a huge amount of space, advertising, or fancy signage.
 
 
   This is Ellie Core, the founder’s grand-daughter. We proposed that the Core family become the hosts for new public space that will help protect the site from redevelopment. 
 
We wanted this new public space to:
1. Co-exist with the business
2. Create new links between the street and the train tracks
3. Re-imagine this tracks as a beautiful urban vista, and a place for leisure, rather than visual scar to be hidden. 

   The area is very well-served by green spaces and conventional recreational activities; What it lacks is perhaps the grit and grime that makes urban life so stimulating. We proposed not so much a park, but an architectural device with which to engage the city. Our intervention could be imagined as an urban pier that creates a space to view the urban landscape, as well as providing sites for urban past-times.
   Materially, we wanted to embrace the functional aesthetic of the site as it is today, and reinforce rather than diminish its contrast with the precious white stucco frontages of the surrounding houses.
   In particular we aimed to celebrate this beautiful black wall which runs along the southern edge of the site, which has apparently been a particularly sore spot for the community who think it’s very ugly - but we tought it to be beautiful!
In order to accommodate the public function,  we needed to reconfigure the existing fabric, and did this by making cuts and insertions. 

 
   The site will be treated like a collage, with material cut away in places, and re-used elsewhere.Where we needed to build new surfaces, we continued to use the same material language of blackened timber siding - simply propped using scaffolding borrowed from the roofing company. 
   The main moves are to create a new level above the existing business, and a jetty which spans out over the train tracks, and is accessed from the street via a cut through the business.
 
   There are two main entrances from the street into the piers. The first is via a flight of steps that lead up to the space above the business. The space for the steps has been created by pushing the boundary wall backward. 
The area at the top is a public space that can be accessed 24hrs a day, without having to pass through the business. It’s an elevated jetty that enables users to view both the Kensington street scape, which offers the opportunity for people-watching, and the train tracks on the other side.
 
   The second entrance is at pavement-level, allowing access for roller-bladers or wheel-chair users. This is the cut that runs through the business, creating a tunnel that transports you directly out on to the long jetty spanning the train tracks. Acting as a secret passage and provoking wonder, this entrance opens an unexpected vista for the visitors and another perspective of the site.
 
   The space is designed to accommodate not just the fancy residents of South Kensington, but also the geeks, misfits and undesirables that are increasingly being pushed out of these areas.  Activities might include not so common hobbies such as pigeon-feeding and tube-train-spotting as well as everyday routines such as lunch-eating and book-reading. But the activity that we would like to promote most as an exciting new urban past-time is rat-catching... or more specifically rat-fishing, which is what these guys down on the jetty are doing. 
   The intervention is designed to allow the business below to operate without any interference. The platform spans from the wall on the left, over the porta-cabin offices. It extends beyond the site boundary on the right, and it is propped by scaffolding poles whose footings are at train track level. A stepped surface allows for visual connections between the Roofing Company and the public users above. It also lets light into the space below.
 
   This is a view from the South Kensington Station, and showing two different spaces:
1. The gently stepped platform above the business - for general public use.
2. The jetty which extends out over the tracks from the cut through the site - more specifically for rat-fishing
   The extended length of the jetty allows for premium rat-fishing space – although the catchers have to take care to avoid getting their lines caught in the moving trains below. 
   So, you’re probably wondering what these new rat-catchers going to do with all their loot? 
 
   This new urban past-time is a form of community pest control, whereby members of the public are incentivized to go rat-catching by Transport for London. Catchers drop off their rats at a local processing plant, where they’re paid per pound of flesh. In turn, Transport for London sells the meat (which is, after all fresh, local and very free-ranged! ) to Thai food trucks in the capital, which are struggling to keep up with demand for the trendy new delicacy of barbecued rat. 
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