Royal Docks Public Realm Framework — 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 worked with the Greater London Authority to develop and guide a comprehensive public realm framework for London’s Royal Docks which was published in March 2020 – read the document here. 5th Studio has continued to progress the strategies in this document through the production of a series of Design Guides, which will steer the delivery of new public realm across the 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.

The development of the Public Realm framework – and the parallel studies – involved extensive consultation, both with the local residents and community groups, and workshop sessions with the land owners and developers who will be responsible for delivering much of the new public realm

The Royal Docks is part of London's cultural and political focus expanding eastwards

The Royal Docks is the largest area of impounded water in the world. Since the last commercial ship left in 1981 the waterspace has resisted occupation at scale, and yet this is the area’s greatest asset, equivalent to the space of Victoria Park.

A key challenge is overcoming the severances caused by large scale infrastructure projects, many of which have created a barrier to communities accessing this waterspace

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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