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Competition open call: Reimagining Butler’s Wharf

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The LFA and Butler’s Wharf Riverside Trust (BWRT) have launched a new design competition inviting architects, landscape architects, designers and artists to enhance the riverside promenade at Butler’s Wharf.

The competition seeks design solutions that will encourage visitors and residents to use and cherish one of London’s most popular riverside spaces. The winning design will be an imaginative response to the site, connecting users to the space, its surrounding river and buildings, and to the site’s rich maritime and industrial heritage.

© Steven Ehrlich

The Butler’s Wharf site, known locally as ‘the jetty’, comprises a concrete pier upon the River Thames, and supports the Thames Path running from St Saviour’s Dock and the former Design Museum building towards Tower Bridge. It is overlooked by the largest collection of preserved Victorian warehouses in London, which were transformed by Sir Terence Conran in the 1980s into a thriving residential neighbourhood with a string of hugely popular restaurants, pubs and cafes opening onto the pier.

Despite its popularity, the riverside promenade at Butler’s Wharf lacks design coherence and a sense of place. The space was completely overlooked when the site was repurposed for housing, and very few of the millions of people who use it every year are aware that the Thames flows underneath. The site is decorated in places by large (and cherished) nautical artefacts but otherwise has evolved accidentally over the years. Now, under the leadership of Butler’s Wharf Riverside Trust and with the support of Southwark Council’s ‘Cleaner Greener Safer’ programme, the design competition is an opportunity to enhance the jetty and to create a pleasant, green and healthy place that reflects the maritime, industrial and human history of Butler’s Wharf. In keeping with the London Festival of Architecture’s mission, the Trust want to democratise the space – as somewhere that can welcome everyone and unite the local community.

Entries will be judged by an expert panel comprising:

  • Sir Terence Conran (designer, restaurateur, retailer and writer)
  • Sarah Gaventa (director of the Illuminated River Foundation)
  • Johanna Gibbons (partner, J & L Gibbons)
  • David Ogunmuyiwa (principal, ArchitectureDoingPlace and Mayor’s Design Advocate)
  • Dr Emma Sanderson-Nash (chair, Butler’s Wharf Riverside Trust)
  • Ruth Slavid (journalist and editor)
  • Tamsie Thomson (director, London Festival of Architecture)

The deadline for first stage expressions of interest is Friday 24 July 2020. Up to six shortlisted teams will be awarded an honorarium of £500 to develop a design concept. The winning team will be awarded £7,900 to deliver Stages 2 and 3 of the RIBA Plan of Work, which will then enable the Butler’s Wharf Riverside Trust to raise funding for delivery and to navigate the site’s many and complex issues around ownership, rights and responsibilities. The Trust hopes that the winning scheme can be delivered or at least started in 2022 to coincide with the jetty’s centenary.

The judges welcome entries from, or collaboration with, groups who are under-represented in architecture. This is in line with the Mayor of London’s Supporting Diversity Handbook.

Full details can be found in the competition brief here (pdf)

The deadline for entries is 12.00pm on Friday 24 July 2020.




Rosa Rogina, head of programme at the London Festival of Architecture, said:

“Millions of Londoners and visitors have strolled along Butler’s Wharf without giving a thought to the promenade beneath their feet, and even fewer will be aware of the site’s fascinating heritage. We are delighted to be working with Butler’s Wharf Riverside Trust to enhance one of London’s best-loved yet accidental public spaces. Opportunities to re-imagine such a prominent site are few and far between, and we hope that as many teams as possible will seize this amazing opportunity.”


Dr Emma Sanderson-Nash, chair of Butler’s Wharf Riverside Trust, said:

“After years of being told nothing could be done and in response to overwhelming support from our community, we are really excited to be able to launch this competition with the London Festival of Architecture.

“We want to encourage visitors and residents to continue to enjoy this important space but also to cherish and understand why it is here, with better lighting, seating and greening while also protecting the views. There is an overlooked but vital link between its former warehouse history, the energy of the riverside and its modern use as vital open space in our busy city. It’s one of the most iconic yet left behind places in central London and deserving of a serious rethink.”

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