Interview

The Rotherhithe Bridge Talks: Nik Randall

WISE16 contacted Nik Randall, Managing Director of ReForm Architects, the architects firm whose design for the Rotherhithe Bridge helped to revive the interest for the project. On 4th October 2016 it was announced that the much needed and demanded pedestrian link between Canary Wharf and their southern neighbours in SE16 got the support from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

As part of a series of articles  about the impact that the bridge will have in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, Nik Randall tells us what the news meant to him and reForm Architects’ international

 Nik Randall / reForm Architects Nik Randall

Nik Randall / reForm Architects Nik Randall

About Nik Randall

Nik Randall was previously a Partner at Brookes Stacey Randall and was founder and Chairman of Space Craft Architects. Some of the projects featured on the reForm website are the work of Nik and his former companies. He chairs reForm’s in-house project review process and is responsible for establishing and maintaining design standards across all projects. Many of his practices’ buildings have won significant awards and have been widely featured internationally by the architectural and popular media.

Nik Randall trained at the University of Liverpool where he gained a First Class Bachelor of Architecture Honours Degree.  In his final year he won both the Holford Award for the best written dissertation and the prestigious Reilly Medal awarded for the best Design. On graduation he travelled to Japan in order to pursue his interest in traditional Japanese architecture, working for the Antonin Raymond Studio in Tokyo.

Nik has taught at the University of Liverpool, and the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and has lectured widely.  He was External Examiner at Manchester Metropolitan University from 2001-2004, and more recently as External Examiner at Leeds Metropolitan University.  In 2005 he was invited to become an advisor to the Southwark Design Review Panel, which he now Chairs as a result of his commitment to architecture and the built environment. He has acted as a design competition advisor for bridges for the Royal Institute of British Architects, is a member of the Institute of Directors and is included in Debrett’s People of Today.

 

How did it feel to get the support of the Mayor of London for a pedestrian crossing after many years of campaigning?

NR/ We were delighted to hear the Mayor’s announcement that he supports this crossing, and that he also recognizes the urgent need for it, calling for an accelerated procurement process so that it can be delivered by 2020.  But there is still a long way to go, so we will be continuing to lobby and promote our design which has received such fantastic local support.

How did the reForm concept originate?- What was people’s reactions to the  reForm proposal?

NR/ I have lived in Southwark for nearly 30 years and have had my office here for over 17 years, so I am very aware of how poor the travel choices in some areas of the borough have been.  I became particularly interested in the lack of Thames crossings in the east of London several years ago. This was in part as a result of a friend who for years has cycled from Peckham to Canary Wharf via the Greenwich foot tunnel, which is totally inadequate for cyclists.  It’s way off the route he would ideally take but the alternative crossing is Tower Bridge, which is even less convenient.  He has to carry his bike down, and (for sensible reasons) is not allowed to cycle through.  The more I looked at the issue the more it became clear that Rotherhithe had the most urgent need for a new bridge and that its benefits would be felt way beyond the immediate areas on either side.  Rotherhithe peninsular is half the size of the City of London, but has only two bus routes serving it. The Jubliee Line is already at full capacity and very crowded, and to use it many local residents have to travel south to head back north.  The need for the bridge is only going to increase as the new developments at Canada Water take shape, so it’s vital it is delivered as soon as possible.

Our design concept is simple, but (to our knowledge) unique.  Although the use of bascules (heavy counter weights as at Tower Bridge) to help open bridges is very well established, we think it will be the only one of its kind in the World.  The back mast at each side is the counterbalance to the opening cantilever.  The very delicate balance makes it highly efficient and means we will only require £9 worth of energy for each opening.

We have tried to reach as many local people as possible, through schools, the Community Council the Rotherhithe Festival and other events and have been really encouraged by the degree of local support.  A couple of months ago our design won the New London Architecture ‘People’s Choice Award 2016.  The judges commented that it “…celebrates the will of two communities to have a link across the river.  Receiving an overwhelming number of votes from these two neighbourhoods and those further afield..”  We were delighted that so many people could see the benefits of our design and took the trouble to vote.  Local support is critical to ensuring the project will be delivered.

Which positive effects will the bridge have for London?

NR/  The impact of the new bridge will be immense.  The benefits to those living in Rotherhithe and Canada Water are perhaps the most obvious, as it will link the area to the jobs and facilities of Canary Wharf as well as bringing the DLR, Crossrail and Jubilee Line across the river within easy reach.  But the Isle of Dogs will benefit too as it will offer a safe, enjoyable and green way for people to travel to work there.  It also links to existing and proposed Cycle Super Highways, and routes on the national Cycle Network so the benefits will spread beyond the two communities immediately either side of the bridge.

The lack of crossings in east London is finally being recognised, and Rotherhithe Bridge can demonstrate that it is possible to build opening bridges that provide much needed connections across the Thames whilst allowing the unobstructed river traffic to pass beneath.

 




We suppose there will be an open competition for designs, how confident are reForm that their design can win it?

NR/ We are not sure what the plans are for the procurement of the bridge, but hope we will be given a fair opportunity to present the advantages of our design.

After the mismanagement of the Garden Bridge, what are the challenges for the Rotherhithe Bridge?

NR/ Rotherhithe Bridge is an urgently needed infrastructure project that appears to have overwhelming local and political support. As with any significant project, there is always a danger that it will ‘stall’ or be delayed, so local pressure for its early delivery by 2020 will help minimise that risk.  And the sooner it is built the earlier the benefits will be felt and the cheaper it will be.

It is important that the correct procedures for procurement are followed to enable the delivery of a practical, cost effective, safe, elegant and popular design by 2020.  We naturally hope that our design has an opportunity to be considered through such a process.

Read more details about the bridge here

 

Photos by reForm and Elliott Wood.

Photos by reForm and Elliott Wood.

Photos by reForm and Elliott Wood.

Photos by reForm and Elliott Wood.

 

"The Thames is one of the world’s great rivers, and London is one of the world’s great cities. Any new bridge across the Thames must respond to the significance of its setting, and add to its culture and heritage.Our design will do this, creating an internationally recognisable landmark. Its unique and elegant form and operation will become an attraction for visitors. It will enhance the views along and across the Thames, providing scale and interest in the way that the ships on the river itself do."

Nik Randall of reForm Architects

 




reForm architects in their own words

reForm Architects’ international team combines experience, commitment and innovation to offer a diverse range of clients a highly professional design led service.

We are friendly and approachable and see a close collaboration with our clients, design teams and contractors as an essential and enjoyable part of any project.

We do not adhere to an architectural style, which can often compromise a relevant design response.  Instead reForm offers a contemporary and eclectic approach that treats problems as opportunities to deliver unique and elegant buildings and spaces.

Following a successful collaboration on a number of Award Winning projects in the Netherlands, reForm has established UK partnership with IAA Architecten enabling us to deliver a broader range and scale of projects for our UK Clients.

Philosophy

reForm believes that well-designed buildings and spaces are vital for successful and sustainable towns and communities. All good design must be functional, but it must also be humane and be well loved by its clients, users and the wider community. This benefits everyone and enriches our shared culture, and is only achievable if the needs and challenges of the client are fully understood from the outset.

Our approach is to consider each project and each Client’s needs as unique. We then adopt a rigorous but highly creative approach to bring out the maximum value in each specific circumstance. The right balance of financial, environmental, logistical, social and cultural value is achieved through our highly collaborative, ‘can do’ attitude.

The impact of design on the environment is greater than ever before, for better or worse. We now have the knowledge and capabilities to ensure that our design decisions have a positive impact, and help create a sustainable world.

reForm’s Managing Director, Nik Randall and the reForm team have extensive experience of designing housing, commercial, education and transport projects in the UK and Europe, winning numerous RIBA, Civic Trust, CABE and international awards.

 

  www.reform-architects.london   @reFormArchi   reFormarchitects
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