Co-Mooring brings the Grand Union Canal to life for the London Festival of Architecture


A stretch of the Grand Union Canal in west London has burst into life as the latest element of the London Festival of Architecture 2019 season is revealed. The Co-Mooring – a community-based project devised by WY Design,, COMPENDIUM and Studio Yu – was selected as the winner of a competition to create a new public realm intervention alongside the Grand Union Canal, organised by the LFA and Westminster City Council (WCC), in partnership with the Canal & River Trust.

Image © William Young

The Co-Mooring harnesses community activity taking place on London’s canal network to enliven the space beneath the Westway flyover in the Harrow Road area of Westminster. The project creates opportunities to connect boaters with local people, breaking down boundaries between the area’s transient and permanent residents. Throughout July, The Co-Mooring is the focus for events encouraging local residents who would not typically use the area to visit and take part in activities. For Westminster City Council, this is an important first step for discussion about the surrounding public realm, and meaningful public engagement on what future improvements around the canal should look like.

The Co-Mooring sees the canal towpath becoming an expanded, multi-use space, alongside further improvements to the canalside including new planting. Activities during July’s lively public programme include family-focussed events, well-being activities, gardening and recycling workshops, and entertainment for older people.

Image © Luke O’Donovan

WY Design,, COMPENDIUM and Studio Yu are a design and research collective based in Copenhagen and London, with a mission to pursue socially useful design as a means of public engagement. The team overcame competition from 49 entries following an open call to architects, landscape architects, designers and artists.

The competition was judged by an expert panel comprising Ruchi Chakravarty (urban design coordinator, Westminster City Council), Hannah Gibbs (enterprise manager, Canal & River Trust), Sophie Nguyen (local architect and Westbourne Neighbourhood Forum), Biljana Savic (local architect and director, Maida Hill Neighbourhood CIC), Tamsie Thomson (director, London Festival of Architecture) and Frances Williams (technical editor, Architects’ Journal).

As the London Festival of Architecture explores boundaries in 2019, we were extremely impressed by this project seeking to break down boundaries between local communities and canal users in Westminster. At first glance, the towpath beneath the Westway is an unpromising place, yet simply by reaching out to the canal’s communities, many new opportunities are born. This simple concept, made real with simple physical interventions, promises to bring the Grand Union Canal to life and for the benefit of everyone.

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