Royal Docks — London

Client
GLA Royal Docks Team / London Borough of Newham

Collaborators
JCLA / Alan Baxter / Maddison Graphic / Studio Dekka / Urban Space Management / Quod / Accertum

5th Studio has won a long-term commission with the Greater London Authority to develop and guide a comprehensive public realm framework for London’s Royal Docks.

With renewed focus and investment, the Mayor’s approval of a £314m Delivery Plan and the arrival of Crossrail, the time has come for major change. The vision for the Royal Docks is of a productive place with the potential to generate 35,000 jobs & 4,000 homes, supported by its status as the capital’s only Enterprise Zone.

For a generation the Royal Docks has been seen as one of London’s key regeneration sites. Strategically located, the docks - the largest area of impounded water in the world - have so far resisted comprehensive development. The Docks will be developed over time through the work of many hands: an effective public realm framework is critical to ensure overall coherence, with connectivity and public spaces imagined at a scale appropriate to the opportunity. This overall vision will need to be delivered through diverse range of tactics and approaches.

The Royal Docks Team - a joint initiative by the Mayor of London and the Mayor of Newham -is leading the development of a Place Framework, working with stakeholders to reimagine the role of the vast water areas, to help plan for public realm improvements and to create a structure for the longer-term asset and water stewardship. 5th Studio’s work is one of three parallel studies - an economic purpose analysis led by Hatch Regeneris, and a Cultural Strategy led by Fluid with the Contemporary Arts Society.

5th Studio leads a comprehensive team that includes Urban Space Management (use strategy & water activation), Alan Baxter Associates (engineering) JCLA (landscape), Maddison Graphic, Accertum (costs), Studio Dekka (lighting) and Quod (planning). This core team is augmented by an expert panel including The Ecology Consultancy, NEF Consulting and Create London.

The project was awarded through a competitive tender process through the Greater London Authority and Transport for London’s Architecture Design and Urbanism Panel, Lot 3.

12Ha of new public spaces are planned to be delivered by partners in the Royal Docks. Together this addresses deficiency in access to open space – but there are gaps in the overall provision and planned public space is not evenly distributed.

This strategy identifies the location and type of existing spaces for improvement and additional public spaces required to complement planned development as a focus for public sector-led development – an additional 9Ha of new public spaces. This ensures that the right spaces are in the right locations to support optimal good growth and create a diversity of spaces, from local parks and squares to places for metropolitan-scale events. We will work with partners to establish a set of common standards and approaches to the public realm of the Royal Docks to ensure overall coherence and quality.

91Ha of water space lies at the heart of the Royal Docks and is the most distinctive and unique asset. It is critical that the water space and dock edges are connected and activated for public use. A key focus of this strategy is opening up the Royal Victoria Dock Loop as a continuous route, providing access to the water and opening off-road connectivity for walking and cycling as well as for a range of sport and leisure use. 000The Public Realm Framework identifies tactics for bringing new uses to the water and enhancing its role for climate change adaptation.

Improvements to fine grain connectivity are critical to ensure that people can move around the area and access the public space network: this strategy seeks to radically improve the infrequent connections across the docks to fully weave the Royal Docks and the Thames riverside into the rest of Newham. Investment will create new and improved routes, establishing a safer high quality walking and cycling network.

Development on the Royal Docks has tended to create pioneering enclaves clustered around transport infrastructure. This development has brought key institutions to the docks, but has struggled to address the overall scale and cohesion of a place built as a large singular piece of infrastructure.

This Public Realm Framework introduces a finer grain of public spaces and connectivity to lower the threshold of intervention for those who want to activate the docks and contribute to more integrated mixed development. This integrated, bottom-up development supports the Mayor of London’s ambitions for Good Growth and the Mayor of Newham’s Community Wealth Building strategy.

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