Arches Promenade

The English Garden.”—Mason
The cold transparent ham is on my fork—
It hardly rains and hark the bell! ding-dingle
Away! Three thousand feet at gravel work,
Mocking a Vauxhall shower! Married and Single
Crushrush; Soak’d Silks with wet white Satin mingle.
Hengler! Madame! round whom all bright sparks lurk
Calls audibly on Mr. and Mrs. Pringle
To study the Sublime, &c. (vide Burke)
All Noses are upturn’d! Whish-ish! On high
The rocket rushes trails just steals in sight
Then droops and melts in bubbles of blue light
And Darkness reigns Then balls flare up and die
Wheels whiz smack crackers serpents twist and then
Back to the cold transparent ham again!
 Source: Poets of the English Language (Viking Press, 1950)

Having analyzed the theme of the competition The missing link, our debate focused on understanding how the creation of a new public space for the city is the opportunity, not only to connect neighbourhoods and adjacent grids but also to value those elements that identify the urban neighbourhood as a social landscape.

Today, the neighborhood’s relationship with the rail infrastructure produces the biggest urban problem. The geometry and dimensions of this axis result in a formal element impossible to ignore. However, in most cases, the city has failed to integrate with the infrastructure and urban contact has resulted in difficult spaces, urban waste, unused corners and blind facades. So now the district is read as fragments generated by this urban barrier.

In this context, the vision of Vauxhall that we present seizes the opportunity to re-think and recover the rail tracks as the organizer of a vibrant new referent public space. Beyond solving the city’s contact with the infrastructure and transforming the barrier in a seam of neighbourhoods, we want to emphasize the different urban grids, the value of existing green spaces and unique buildings that are part of the historical memory of the neighbourhood. And also, create a public space flexible in the public realm that offers new and exciting activities for the day, night and different seasons.

Vauxhall now has the opportunity to build a new place of coexistence in where urban and social elements are highlighted and become a part of its very essence and historical memory, turning it into a neighbourhood where the residents and investors may feel proud of its future. London will have a new reference area and a new image for the city.


 THE STRATEGY. The rail tracks as the spine of the new public space. 

Our proposal consists on converting the railway infrastructure in a new «green urban artery» that re-organizes the neighbourhood through a new public space connector of the various points of interest. The transformation of public space will enhance in a very obvious way the connection between Nine Elms Battersea all the way until Waterloo and the South Bank, as well as bringing the Thames waterfront closer to the residential grid. The goal is for walkers and cyclists to roam in the neighbourhood and discover all the points of interest.

To achieve that the proposal considers the next transformations:

– Reclaim and redevelopment of the track adjacent open spaces on the East bank to create a new pedestrian and bicycle path next to the arches. Goding st. must be turned into a place of permanent contact with the tracks and at the same time with the residential grid, Spring Gardens parks, Pedlars Park and Lambeth High and new culture zone Damien Hirst and Beaconsfield.

– In addition to the re-habilitation projects that are planned, we propose to increase the transverse passageways, especially in two points: in the area of ​​Vauxhall station-Spring Gardens and in the contact area of Damien Hirst Beaconfields-Lambeth High. This way the permeability increases with the rate of passageways along the new promenade.

-Strengthen transversalities on Glasshouse walk, Tinworth st, Randall Row, Salamanca St, and a few others turning them into new walkways (with restricted car access) to allow pedestrians to walk freely in the area, often crossing the tracks to discover the other bank

-In areas of contact with the public points of interest (gardens, parks, cultural area, waterfront, farm or heritage landmarks, etc.) the promenade expands to define new areas of activity related to the gardens: places for theatre, concerts, flea market, readings, exhibitions, contemplation, terraces, playground, urban orchards, flowers, etc.


The elements of the promenade

The new system of promenades is organized around three specific elements that are reproduced in different ways to give rise to the various activities. The idea is for the small elements, by repetition, provide a new character to the spaces and build the project’s structure.

The arches

The first element is the arch because we believe that it’s a characteristic element of the neighbourhood and with great potential. Besides reinforcing the stores under the tracks with new businesses, we propose to emphasize the formal character of the shape by extruding the arch to create new objects that play around the neighbourhood with different shapes, colours and types. This is an element of proximity with versatile and flexible capabilities to generate new activities: playground, exhibition spaces, terraces, sculptures, milestones, decorations, lights, etc.. Even so, it’s the people themselves who can experience and experiment with new fun activities and let their imagination run idle. This way, the micro object constructs a unified reading of the neighbourhood, and therefore the future memory of the site.

The Ground

The ground is designed as a set of textures that help understand the tour around the neighbourhood. Different kinds of ground materials are proposed which always combine cobblestones with some kind of grass or plant to give value to the character of garden or park but with an urban atmosphere. In the project there are mainly two types of pavements for the new promenades. One paved with cobblestones and vegetation that defines the lineal promenade that connects the various locations. And another one with pieces of coloured concrete combined with small random grass beds to define doors, landmarks or points of interest on the promenade.

The proposal emphasises the value of ​​the green pastures and large areas of existing parks and gardens so as to maintain the historic character of the green area as a meeting place and activity space.

The vegetation

First, all the existing vegetation is left untouched along all areas of project intervention because they are all in great shape and are a very important part of the personality that makes the neighbourhood so unique.

On the other hand, the new vegetation reinforces the curve of the train tracks by empowering the perpendicularity following the guideline of the arches. Thus, it is intended to create a promenade with a strong expressive character from a natural element. The proposal promotes the variation in the colours of the trees, leaf types, heights and sizes for different areas of the park.

Furthermore, we propose a new vision for the promenade with gardens, flowers, shrubs and above all with new places for orchards for the neighbours because orchards generate a social event of great interest and also at the same time a positive change in the landscape along the promenade.


Title: Arches Promenade

Project Name:  The missing link

Location: Vauxhall  neighbourhood, on London’s South Bank

Date: march 2013

Programme: Urban project

Organizer: Vauxhall One, the new Business Improvement District (BID) for Vauxhall

Team: Alvaro Cuéllar, Anna Gutiérrez

Collaborators: Guillem Martínez, Fabrizio Cocirio,  Mireia Martin, Mariano Pérez,

Competition carried out in TOC – Taller Obert de Concursos, at the ETSAB, Escuela Técnica Superior Arquitectura de Barcelona, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.