Empowering Platforms: a new competition to reimagine the Thames Riverfront

London Festival of Architecture, Westminster City Council and Northbank Business Improvement District announce ‘Empowering Platforms’ competition to reimagine the Thames Riverfront.

The London Festival of Architecture, Westminster City Council and the Northbank Business Improvement District have launched a new design competition for an ‘empowering platform’ that can reimagine the experience people have with the River Thames alongside the Westminster riverbank. As the latest addition to the Festival’s vibrant competitions programme, the ‘Empowering Platforms’ project seeks a complete transformation of the current ‘benches on bricks’ model with a creative design vision that centres around inclusivity and accessibility – shaping a more engaging and stimulating experience of the riverfront for all.

Architects, landscape architects, designers and artists are invited to develop a bold and interactive design concept that offers everyone a place to engage with the River Thames, local landmarks and the area’s rich heritage from a fresh and engaging perspective, and to make the Thames Path more inviting for different users.

At present, the Thames Riverfront in the City of Westminster is a world-known destination but is not being used to its full potential. In places public benches are positioned on raised brick platforms to offer views across the river wall: however, they are inelegant, uninspiring and inaccessible for many people. The ‘Empowering Platforms’ competition aims to enhance the Thames Path through bold design solutions in different locations, providing a more accessible and attractive public realm, and properly addressing the relationship between the Thames Path and its surroundings in ways that benefit everyone. Designers are encouraged to consider interactivity and sensory experiences, how views towards the river and key landmarks can be improved, and how the area’s rich heritage can be enhanced. Interventions should be designed to be easily assembled, dismantled and transported.

Westminster City Council is developing a ‘Place Plan’ to establish existing opportunities, priorities and objectives, creating projects with immediate and long-term benefits to ensure a socially sustainable future. Here, this focuses on five kilometres of the area’s riverfront, aiming to enhance the natural environment and public realm to deliver a unique and world-renowned destination. The council is working with the Northbank BID on this project, with work being commissioned to look at options for the long-term activation and enhancement of the riverside area.

This competition will complement this work and offers the opportunity to work alongside the community and stakeholders informing a long-term waterfront vision and strategy for the area. The project will be a platform for trialling and discussing small-scale interventions that can nevertheless make a big difference to people’s lives.

The competition will be judged by an expert panel, including:

Adrian Evans (Director, Thames Festival Trust)
Katherine Fleming (Operations Director, Northbank BID)
Ramiro Levy (Place Shaping Officer, Westminster City Council)
Ruchi Chakravarty (Head of Place Shaping, Westminster City Council)
Tamsie Thomson (Director, London Festival of Architecture)
More judges to be confirmed shortly.

This project follows the success of the ‘The Co-Mooring’ – a community-based project devised by COMPEDIUM, Studio Yu, Tomos Design and WY Design along Grand Union Canal – delivered in partnership with Westminster Council and the Canal and River Trust, as part of LFA 2019. This saw a colourful and bold public realm intervention harness local activity along London’s canal network, and become home to a vibrant programme of community event throughout the summer, enlivening the space beneath the Westway flyover. This marked an important first step in the discussion around Westminster’s public realm and meaningful public engagement on what future improvements look like, a conversation now continued by the ‘Empowering Platforms’ project.