This project makes the case for alteration, extension and remodelling as an approach to reworking London’s neglected postwar tower blocks, considering the Kipling Estate in Bermondsey as a case study. London tower blocks are lively communities, with groups of residents wary of regeneration. Too frequently residents have been left out of the process, and communities displaced, with little chance of returning to their homes after regeneration has been completed. The character of Bermondsey has changed enormously over the past few decades; once located visually by Guy’s Hospital, it is now marked by the Shard. These buildings reflect the changes to the social makeup and urban character of Bermondsey. The welfare statism defined by Guy’s reflects Bermondsey’s social tenure as London’s biggest council housing landlord. The Shard represents London’s overbearing obsession with international finance. The shift in the workforce from the secondary to tertiary sector has left many behind with little opportunity to work, and the regeneration and gentrification of the high street has done little to replace the opportunities provided by lost industries. The proposals seek to achieve a maintained architecture which promotes a skilled method of construction and restores a skilled trade to south London. The project proposal is for a building that facilitates the phased modification of the existing towers, over time. The project provides on site temporary accommodation for people displaced by the construction process. The existing towers will be extended laterally, on a new structure, to increase the living space of the existing flats, and provide private outdoor amenity space for each, improving the quality and amount of space in each of the flats. A school of Master Thatching is proposed, which will teach local residents a skilled construction method, the resources and students for which will be used to apply and maintain a new thatched facade for the existing towers. Finally, a constructed wetland of reeds will provide the materials required for the new thatching industry in Bermondsey, as well as filtering and cleaning effluent from the towers before it is disposed of in the Thames, in the location of an underused outdoor amenity space.

London Thatch by James Kirk from Dezeen on Vimeo.