mudlarking

Enlivening covid-quarantine with post-practice archiving leads me to unearth a few TMA projects that to my mind deserved more. Mudlarking is one such.

The river’s vital role as both an artery for transporting people through the heart of London and as a playground for people to explore the wonders of the city are on show for the world to see. A trip along the Thames reveals 2,000 years of riparian history. From the Roman walls at Tower Hill, and the Victorian wharves and warehouses to the soaring peak of The Shard – providing a stunning vista of London’s past and present. – Boris Johnson, Mayor of London (TfL River Action Plan, 2013)

Set against a background of renewed enthusiasm for the river, Mudlarking was our submission to one of those seemingly interminable GLA/Transport for London design framework procurement processes. With a request for high-quality design, solid transport and urban experience, strong London-centric ideas and a willingness to commit commercial suicide, the metrics of GLA Framework satisfaction came with a brief of detail and clarity, ensuring that the submission comparisons could be objective, auditable and absolute:

“Please submit an outline illustration of your ideas demonstrating a development benefiting from a Thames-side location.”

We had recently considered the potential for cooling-the-tube at Bank station, the masterplan for which we had been developing since 2003 and elements of which were then under construction – and indeed, still are.  We had considered one of those environmentally beneficial ‘service the new construction from the river’ ideas, involving tunnels and shafts that, if they could be worked around development piles and the path of the imminent Thames Tideway at Swan Lane Pier, could later house platform-wrapping pipework that would be naturally cooled by the river’s tidal flows.

The idea never got anywhere at the time, but here was an opportunity to revive the cooling proposal without the scale demanded of spoil extraction, with adjacent developments participating in heating:cooling:cost sharing, and in support of and displaying the benefits of Mudlarking, one of those typically eccentric London activities – instinctive, inquiring, educational, steeped in tradition, dirty and incredibly fun. 

As a typology I was reminded of the old Oxo Tower heliport, a far-from-public transport interchange I once had the pleasure of experiencing with my earliest and most encouraging mentor Mr Foster, which comprised a rusty hulk of a barge enclosing a somewhat over-plush interior in which to await the arrival of your Bell JetRanger.  The cubes and the barge were long gone, much to the benefit of brasserie dining and Coin Street slumbers, but the nature of the facility still strikes me as one of those once typical London chance discoveries, embellished with once typical London covert opulence.

So we combined these ideas, wrote something Borisly poetic, submitted in eager anticipation ….. and got this back in response.

A) Very confusing and incoherent proposal. Unclear what proposal shows and what relevance it has to brief. (B) The visual shows some quality and promise but falls short of successfully explaining the proposal. Adequate. (C) The text does not clearly communicate anything and lacks quality.

Back in the box it all went, to be revived another day when the stick-in-the-mud assessors were replaced with Mudlarking enthusiasts who could see the environmental, economic and social benefits of combining apparently disparate objectives for the greater comfort and joy of us all.

Now, if you are reading this at the end of 2020 and would like to befuddle the assessors of next year’s GLA/TfL Framework procurement exercise, you could do no better than look here: https://www.london.gov.uk/city-hall-blog/mayors-architecture-urbanism-framework

And meanwhile, for the rest of us, some mudlarking links:

Thames and Field

Thames Museum

London Mudlark

Port of London Authority

Museum of London

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