Greenwich Peninsula: an island of opportunity wrapped by our serene river Thames. The Peninsula is undergoing the largest single regeneration we have seen for a generation. Transforming into a place for London’s first-time buyers, its filmmakers and maverick street artists, its left-field theatre companies and upside-down pylons, it’s an expression of the world’s boldest architects.
Knight Dragon, developer of Greenwich Peninsula, certainly seems to understand how to make a neighbourhood. Spearheaded by entrepreneur Sammy Lee, it saw potential where no one else thought to look.
Emerging as something of an ultimate urban village, the Peninsula finds its form under the masterplan of London architects Allies and Morrison. The firm, which celebrates its thirtieth year in 2015, comes to the project with impressive pedigree—it has conceived schemes for the London Olympic Park and the Argent King’s Cross development.
The vision here imagines more than the usual large-scale office space to create a whole neighbourhood of new ideas enhancing the Peninsula’s status as an emerging hub for London’s culture-savvy and design-conscious. “As designers, the brief to create a new piece of London for 30,000 people presents a unique opportunity for a new urban fabric on a scale not normally possible,” says Allies and Morrison’s Peter Besley.
It is a masterplan based on ideas rather than trends, and, unusually for a development of this scale, one with a rich and varied overarching design scheme, unlike other more uniform projects.
Here, the best of British architecture, design and restaurant talent have the opportunity to create a new urban feel. Celebrated British chef Stevie Parle is a pioneer on the Peninsula; he opened Craft London—his anticipated third café/ restaurant/cocktail bar—earlier this year on Peninsula Square. Already, Craft hums with activity: there’s the roasting of coffee, smoking of fish, bee keeping, meat curing, fermentation of vegetables, baking of bread, and tending of the kitchen garden. It’s an ode to a new type of British restaurant; thoroughly modern yet committed to craft and traditional technique.
The seasonal menu focuses on thoughtfully sourced UK produce, including English Lop pork loin, cured lardo and house-baked sourdough. Another establishment to open this year is Vinothec Compass, a restaurant and wine bar that is the first word in vino on the Peninsula, serving elegant dishes in a casual environment with a killer view.
Leading the creative charge is Conrad Shawcross, who was commissioned to reimagine the new Low Carbon Energy Centre on the Peninsula. He is adding a 49-metre tower, Lenticular Dazzle Camouflage. “The Peninsula, as it is surrounded on three sides by water, has a similar feel to New York—the sun rises and sets over the sea, so you get this reflected light. The building itself was of particular intrigue, because it was this very thin slice—only three metres wide—so there was an opportunity to do something that light could pass through,” says Shawcross.
His striking sculpture, is joined by a landmark, 30-plus metre work by Alex Chinneck, A bullet from a shooting star, who is best known for creating temporary, site-specific, fantastical public works—for just one example, he has slashed through London’s Covent Garden market, leaving it suspended mid-air.
A printing studio by gallerist Steve Lazarides finds a new home in a former warehouse, joining the contemporary art space NOW Gallery, which is situated in the sleek, curved Gateway Pavilions, designed by Marks Barfield.
Just downstream, The Jetty hosts interactive performance pieces on the River Thames, and dynamic pop-ups promise to further celebrate the neighbourhood. In the future, the Peninsula will also be London’s cinematic hub: home to some of London’s most significant film studios and central to the city’s film industry. The self-taught British designer Tom Dixon—iconic for his highly sought-after copper pendant lights—has contributed his high-concept interiors to a limit- ed-edition series of SOM-designed apartments and lofts, situated within the Upper Riverside district.
“The idea was to make them a bit grittier, a bit more ‘British’ in a way—to try and bring in some warmth and realness,” says Dixon. “It was important to me to have symbolic items to do with industry, because industry had been a large part of the Peninsula until relatively recently.”
A stroll around the Peninsula today reveals echoes of its industrial heritage, but as the transformation gains momentum, it’s clear this is a vision that is fused to the future: crisp apartment towers are emerging, and a slick 60-bay state-of-the-art golf-driving range has secured a prime position for practicing your swing. Pipped to become an international destination in its own right, this is much more than gloss on a district that, for nearly a decade, found itself stalled.
After Knight Dragon took full ownership of the site in late 2013, the company committed to playing the long game—this is a 25-year development—and the Peninsula is set to witness the biggest change to its landscape since the Dutch originally drained the region to use as farmland and meadows. A vibrant mixed-use pedestrianised district in the heart of the Peninsula also home to Ravensbourne College students, Peninsula Place is set to be an all-new transport interchange, hotel and residential cluster; and a “landscape bridge”, will sail over the Blackwall Tunnel wall.
Landscape architect GROSS MAX, no strangers to designing waterfront schemes, have conceived a public promenade that flanks both sides of the river. As for the apartments: “The great variety of possible building scales, heightened architectural potential, and interplay between landscape elements produces a really dynamic and exciting built environment,” says Besley. The Greenwich Peninsula now finds itself an energised, emerging village, a pioneer for a sustainable and inspiring way to live in London.
The Peninsula in numbers