An alternative visionfor the future of Chrisp Street Market By Kalpana Gurung &​ Robert Buss​

An alternative visionfor the future of Chrisp Street Market

By Kalpana Gurung &​ Robert Buss​ (Studio H​oopla)

The Metsä Wood Plan B competition is an opportunity to address the socially and environmentally unsustainable trajectory of housing development in London. 

Chrisp Street Market has been chosen as the site of enquiry, since plans have recently been submitted for planning approval, which will destroy most of the site and, with it, businesses, homes and community. It shares the qualities of many large redevelopments around London: wholesale destruction of existing buildings, private developers with a stranglehold on profit and the ‘cleansing’ of the city. 

The site is located in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets within sight and walking distance of the employment centre of Canary Wharf. 

Much of the site was built for the 1951 Festival of Britain, showcasing Britain’s commitment to a social democratic future. The current plans to build 750 new homes and upgrade retail units will make the area unaffordable to live or work for existing residents. 

London has a housing crisis but tackling this should not come at the expense of quality of life and the destruction of diverse and functioning communities. We should address the much more difficult, but responsible challenge of augmenting the new with the old - both physical and social. 

Laminated veneer lumber is the ideal material to achieve this; lightweight, prefabricated modules can be craned into place with minimal disruption to the everyday life of the market. 

The scheme uses a familiar London typology of a busy public realm at the ground floor with a mix of housing above. 

In order for the intense commercial activity to continue and expand the public realm, podium structures fill in the urban block, creating a semi-public landscape, with loading areas retained beneath. Open staircases and lifts manage the transition between ground and first floors. 

Existing residential blocks are extended upwards using Kerto-Q and Kerto-S laminated veneer lumber modules while new blocks sitting on the podium itself use the same system. The timber is protected from the elements but visible through an aluminium glazed screen and is exposed throughout residential interiors, providing a highly insulated and high quality finish. 

This system could be adapted and replicated across London and other cities, as a way to address the tide of wholesale gentrification - a more human, slower paced and responsible method of regeneration and change, while adding significant density to the areas people want to live. 

This is a place where ordinary people can show civic pride, are much more conscious of the environmental consequences of their personal choices, where institutions and corporations adopt sustainable practices not just because it is economically or politically correct to do so, but because it is the responsible thing to do.​​

City Above the City architecture competition

Plan B : City Above the City architecture competition 

Metsä Wood challenged architects and students around the world to push the boundaries of modern wood building design in the urban environment. Entrants from 40 countries created their Plan B to urbanisation using wood (Kerto® LVL – laminated veneer lumber) as the main material. The task was to design a wooden extension to an existing urban building. The entries were designed to 69 cities worldwide.

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