Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Convoys Wharf - Deptford's Aspirations

The Olympia Building

The Deptford Dame has already written a comprehensive report on last Saturday's consultation event on Convoys Wharf. Transpontine has published some excellent photographs.

I noted, as did the Dame, the absence of anybody with an Aedas badge, but I was also somewhat surprised that nobody from the Port of London Authority was in attendance. Approximately half the site is still safeguarded for wharfage, so I can only suspect that they were not invited.

Deptford Is have done a short write up with photographs of some of the speakers and a short quote from William Richards. William's introduction of other speakers struck me as setting the aspirational tone for the day, so I am publishing it in full for anyone who missed it.

"The tide has turned ..(as the young people of Second Wave have just demonstrated). There have been many historic events on this site in the five centuries since Henry VIII put his cipher in stone on the great storehouse by the waterfront. Today we hope that together the people of Deptford, the owner of the site, Hutchison Whampoa, the architects, planners and politicians will be part of that history and make this consultation worthy of being called an historic moment of the 21st century.

Since the site ceased to be a working wharf became dormant in 2001 the people of Deptford, the planners, heritage protection bodies and the designers (from various practices) have been working in vacuums or separately. Today we are starting a process of engagement that embodies the best of localism, international resources and the best imaginations concerned with heritage led, profitable regeneration.

Firstly, it must be said that anyone here should count themselves as crazy if they were to resist inevitable and necessary regeneration of this site- which has the assets of place, location, scale and heritage to make it remarkable in London.

So it is with a desire to achieve, that the community offers its ideas. Some of the specific ideas are relatively new, some are the result of ten years actively engaging with and researching the site, all the ideas are almost beyond imagination- but the challenge for everyone in this room is to elevate the future of the site beyond the banal, beyond the expedient and reflect the values of the site into the future. It must be excellent.

It must work, for those who live here today and for those who will come to Deptford in the future.

Our proposals start with the ground plan- the water bodies, spaces and buildings that you may have already seen today. Many of These features are described by some as “archaeology”, but in fact they are buildings set into the ground. Were the basin a broken building with its parapet and roof missing, we would certainly be saying lets repair that building, put and new roof and repair the walls, lets find a new use for it! - So lets link the repaired basin to the Olympia building and give it context and a new use. The same could be said of the other features- the slipways and the great dock (a performance space) and mast-ponds a home for swans?

To do this requires imagination and will power – so the challenge to the planners and statutory protection agencies is, USE THE POLICY AT your DISPOSAL TO ENSURE THAT THE BEST FUTURE IS FOUND FOR THIS SITE AND FOR the whole of DEPTFORD.

Research has shown that crime rates fall and other social benefits arise when a community engages in the creation of their neighbourhood, - people feel pride, belonging and distinction.

Heritage is one of the great tourist income generators in this country. But perhaps most important of all is the opportunities that a successful regeneration might bring to jobs and training for the next generation of young people in Deptford.

So when Julian and Richard talk in a moment about building a HUGE ship out of wood in the docks and sheds - we mean to build a ship using local skills and local labour- linked to Lewisham and Greenwich college the local university etc etc. the same is true for the magic of Sayes Court Gardens –apprenticeships, learning centre, tourism, -I will leave Roo and Bob to inspire you with more on that. And Renato will outline how an approach to building bridges can create a vibrant riverscape.

And if you are saying now, IT CANNOT BE DONE! Be careful---- it HAS BEEN DONE ALREADY.

In France the Hermione has been built (and will be launched this year) by the locals of Rochfort and the apprentices can be seen at work and the millions of tourists will tell you of their visit.

GARDENS have been recreated at Chiswick and re-imagined in Kenilworth with public and private money.

But these two projects are only possible if the Masterplan is from the ground up- seeing the heritage assets not as blocks to an easy profit but as constraints that offer the architects and planners, local input and heritage bodies the chance to respond creatively in their design process. Enough of the tyranny of the bland that has dogged the Isle of Dogs for so many years of ill-thought-out development.

Farrells have themselves imagined and realised complex sites that have demonstrated the potential to weave the old and the new, the restored and the state-of-the-art to make something unimaginable -real.
Former naval sites in Copenhagen, Venice, post -industrial Brooklyn, Berlin, Hull, Manchester, Gateshead – they all should offer us inspiration.

And if you are still believing that we, the locals, are mad, unrealistic - let us tell you this -
During the last ten years, a group of locals, many of whom are here today, constituted as CONVOYS OPPORTUNITY, suggested that this site could be a liner terminal. “OH no that is not possible, not profitable” was the response in spite of the fact that the PLA suggested it was feasible. Well last year another developer in Greenwich has successfully obtained planning permission for a cruise liner terminal and large residential scheme no more than one mile from where we are now. They are on the starting blocks already with the scheme, about to build, and we are still here discussing.

– So lets get on.

So today, with architects of vision, an owner who by this invitation wants to engage and a site that is bigger than all of us, lets build something that is a case study of excellence, Seven Bridges, Sayes Court Garden, the Lenox -they are not just the history of this site, they are its future!
So first- Julian and Richard will take us to the Lenox

And next Renato on bridges

And lastly Bobby and Roo with take us into Sayes Court Garden … grow our imaginations......"

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