A new chapter has begun in the saga of Twickenham Riverside. After previous Tory and Lib Dem administrations’ unloved plans were dumped after they lost local elections, when the current Lib Dem lot took control of Richmond Council, we’ve seen slow but measured progress towards a new attempt to come up with a plan for the site that works in terms of design, function and finances. In recent months LBRuT, aka El Brute, have issued a design brief for the site and shortlisted five firms of architects off the back of a competition run through RIBA. And now, as autumn 2019 trundles towards us, we finally get to see what those five outfits have come up with. Progress? Possibly.
We’ve now got the big reveal and have entered a period of public engagement. Avid readers – and even non-avid ones – will recall that the consultations run by ‘the last lot’ generally ignored significant public feedback about moving car parking away from the Embankment river front to free up the space for people rather than vehicles. The process also saw the original ‘well wide of the mark’ Terry designs become blander and blander and the much touted ‘town square’ get smaller and smaller. It was all a bit of a mess. We all love a faceless committee but that’s no way to design a riverside development. OK, so it probably is but you get the gist.
The five shortlisted teams trying to woo Twickenham with their design flair are: Baynes and Mitchell; Allies and Morrison; Cullinan Studio; Hopkins Architects; Haworth Tompkins. And what of the new designs? We were hoping for clever ideas, innovative solutions to the parking conundrum and architecture which makes some kind of nod to Twickenham’s riverside heritage without being either too twee, too utilitarian, too overbearing or focusing on winning a design award with some kind of ‘BOLD STATEMENT’. Did we get them? Here’s what we reckon after a quick glance at the runners and riders (who remain unnamed on each set of plans). In a word, interestingish. Most of them start from a better place than where the previous design ended up. All of them place a strong emphasis on open space by the river. Parking and traffic is moved off the river front but whether the issue is truly ‘solved’ will require more detailed scrutiny. All contain a fair amount of building – that was always going to be the case – and some are more ‘blocky’ than others. Styles vary quite significantly but in essence, although none of them tick every box right away, there’s some good stuff to go on. Some folk will be disappointed there’s no lido although one design features a ‘natural pool’ which, we are told, is definitely not a traditional lido but nor is it a ‘Hampstead style pond’, but yes you can swim in it. That architect also features a big arch over a cafe which you’ll either quite like or hate. There’s lots to look through in more detail but surely there’s something in these five sets of plans that people can broadly support? Yes? Maybe?
What next? Well, from now until 2nd October you have an opportunity to tell LBRuT what you think about the designs and this, dear reader, we are told will enable the Design Panel peeps to take account of public views and help push things forward. In other words, it’s not a public vote but your views will (or at least might) be taken into account as part of the “detailed process of development and engagement”. The chosen architect team will be announced in November.
If you want to take a closer look then there is a lot more information about each design – more pictures and plenty of words – on the Council’s website and there also are four drop in sessions at Clarendon Hall, York House as follows:
Thursday 5th Sept – 12pm-8pm
Thursday 12th Sept – 6pm-8.30pm
Saturday 21st Sept – 10am-5pm
Tuesday 24th Sept – 6pm -8.30pm
So, whaddya fink?
- LBRuT Twickenham Riverside This site contains more information about the process and full details on all the designs. Deadline for comments is Wednesday 2nd October
- Twickenham Riverside Park or on Twitter here.
- Twickenham Riverside Action Group (RAG)
- Twickenham Lido
- Twickenham Riverside Trust (Diamond Jubilee Gardens)