The cruise, narrated by architect and Open City tour guide, Benedict O’Looney with interjections from our Founding Partner Ian Simpson, started from North Greenwich pier and identified some of the most notable landmarks along this famous stretch of water – including our most recent contributions, Dollar Bay, One Blackfriars and Circus West.
The cruise culminated in a lively discussion in the Village Hall at Circus West, where key figures from the worlds of architecture, design and urbanism discussed the extent to which the growth and development of the city has been influenced by the river, as well as the impact of the river on the economic, cultural and community activities along its shores.
Moderated by New London Architecture’s Peter Murray, the panel discussion welcomed Ian Simpson and Sebastien Ricard, Director at WilkinsonEyre, representing two of the architectural practices involved in the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, who discussed how the river has influenced the design and development of their buildings. Sarah Gaventa introduced Illuminated River – a long-term art commission that aims to light Central London’s bridges at night; whilst Victoria Wägner discussed the research that Publica is undertaking for the Greater London Authority and Port of London Authority in making a case for a cultural vision for the River Thames.
When discussing how the architectural identity of London has been shaped by the River Thames, the panellists’ agreed that in recent years, the city has lost some of its connection with the river, which historically existed due to the river being the lifeline of the developing city. Some of the ideas the panellists shared as to how the nation’s capital may reconnect with the river included: improving the bridges and making them suitable places to stop, sit and enjoy the city from; opening up more of the riverside for residents to access it; educating people about the river, its life, history and inhabitants; bringing in a planning policy that forces private owners to give part of their land to riverside pathways when redeveloping their site; more collaborative working between local authorities and key decision making organisations; and their boldest idea, electing a mayor for the river!