Helen Allen recently submitted her masters thesis to the University of Greenwich. The thesis creates a masterplan concept that proposes to stitch Brentford together and create a heart to the town centre using water as the thread.
Brentford is located on the north side of the River Thames from Kew Botanic Gardens in west London. The site dates back to Roman occupation and has a long industrial heritage being formerly occupied by a brewery, gas works, soap works, railways goods yards and is located at the end of the Grand Union Canal to the Midlands. The area has a unique character with the canal and river activities and although much of it is neglected and fragmented the area still retains significant elements of its dockland and industrial heritage.
Today Brentford has a working maritime economy with a large houseboat community, barge building and repair workshops. English Heritage noted in their character appraisal that:
‘this is a rare junction of historic canal, rail and river infrastructure serving London, which deserves special treatment and consideration. Its character lies somewhere between urban, rural and industrial.’1
However, the town is fragmented, lacks a heart and is dominated by car parks, buildings falling into disrepair and poor quality public spaces. A busy main road divorces people from the riverside – you would not know the river is there. Brentford is a place you pass through rather than dwell.
The masterplan concept proposes to stitch Brentford together and create a heart to the town centre using water as the thread. The challenge has been to work in context to preserve the intimate and industrial nature of the spaces and sense of place, whilst creating opportunities for sustainable growth. This would be achieved by connecting micro spaces totalling 55 hectares working in context with historic street patterns and distinct local character.
New canal basins will provide enhanced water activities, flood mitigation and new green spaces will provide edible and amenity landscapes. Mixed use buildings will create a sustainable community alongside a water based economy.
There are 3 focal areas in the development – Market Square, Town Wharf and Waterman’s Orchard Park. The heart of the town focuses on the Magistrates’ Court (Market Square) and iconic warehouse (Town Wharf) where new public spaces will be created. New riverside boardwalks and a bridge will provide a step-free continuous riverside walkway and create a link from the north to south bank and Kew Gardens.
The new arts centre, with terraced outdoor performance space, plays homage to the iconic warehouse, upon the footprint of which it stands, and marine architecture. This relocation from the existing centre in Waterman’s Park enables people to walk to it whilst converting the existing building into a Food Centre to work with the new terraced orchards, local schools and residents in association with Kew Gardens. Waterman’s Park will become a productive food and amenity space.
WATERMAN’S ORCHARD PARK
IMAGE CREDIT & COPYRIGHT: Helen Allen