A new Green Vision for the Low Line – RIBA competition winner announced

Better Bankside, the Low Line Steering Group and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have selected PDP London Architects’ ‘Low Line Commons’ as the winner of the international competition to develop an ecological vision for the Low Line.

Following the path forged by the railway viaducts through Bankside, London Bridge and Bermondsey, the Low Line stretches through some of London’s oldest neighbourhoods, connecting communities and offering a distinct perspective on an immensely well-known but ever-evolving part of town.

The Low Line will unlock the potential of our Victorian rail arches – opening up a walkway that runs along the base of the viaducts to create a new spine, supporting breathing spaces and a flourishing mix of small and medium sized businesses.

The Low Line is a long-term project. It will incrementally unfold as different opportunities and strands of funding become available. Having a coherent and creative green vision for the project will ensure that it can be delivered with sustainability at its heart and have benefits for people and wildlife.

Launched in July 2019, the Low Line RIBA Competition received eighty-two entries from architects, landscape architects, ecologists, engineers, artists and other professionals, spanning thirty-five countries. It challenged teams to present a green and creative vision and strategy to underpin the future development of the Low Line.

The winning concept, The Low Line Commons, was conceived by PDP London architects, working with Macfarlane and Associates Landscape ArchitectsGreengage sustainability consultants and Studio 4215 environment consultants. It aims to build a common vision for the Low Line and puts the local community, as well as nature, at the heart of the project. The design offers four interlinked themes to help guide the emerging Low Line – productive green infrastructure, convivial public space, diverse and green economy, and historical and cultural connections.

Nature is fundamental to the project; it will create accessible new green connections, and incorporate a variety of ecological interventions, helping to improve local air quality and create a healthier environment. It proposes a sustainable drainage system using ecological engineering methods, such as bioswale planting and street-level rain gardens, to avoid surface flooding and store water. The project features increased green infrastructure – tree planting, community gardens and wildlife habitats – to help create a ‘sense of place’ for the community and encourage more people to visit the Low Line.

Pedro Roos, Partner at PDP London Architects, said ‘We are delighted to have been announced as the winners of the competition. Low Line Commons aspires to be a shared natural and cultural resource of the people, by the people and for the people. It aims to transform the arches from being a barrier to a seam sensitively knitted into the multiple layers of the local context. We look forward to working with the client team in developing the Low Line as a robust piece of infrastructure for London that creatively tackles the current environmental, economic and social challenges head-on.’

Donald Hyslop, Chair of Better Bankside and the Low Line Steering Group, said, “We were very pleased to see so many entries to the competition, both locally and internationally. The Low Line will become an important part of some of London’s most vibrant communities and neighbourhoods. The Low Line Commons stands out with its attention to addressing the intricacies of the project and making people its chief concern – placing communities and ecology at its heart.”

Lisbet Rausing, co-founder of Lund Trust, said “I am delighted to have supported this competition, which attracted many excellent visions for the Low Line as a place where nature and people can flourish and prosper. Congratulations to the winners, whose design offers a thoughtful and inclusive approach and shows how public space can be transformed to provide vital connections between communities, the built and natural environment, and the history and future of the area.”

Shaun Mobsby, Asset Management Director at The Arch Company said, “We’re delighted to be working with the Low Line Steering Group partners including the Better Bankside team to realise the potential of the arches and viaducts along the Low Line route. The winning competition entry, Low Line Commons, provides an exciting vision for developing vibrant, sustainable, and community-focused spaces that offer opportunities for entrepreneurs, start-ups and established businesses to thrive. We are excited to be a part of bringing this vision to life.”

The Low Line RIBA competition is supported by Lund Trust, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. The evaluation panel included Lisbet Rausing, Co-founder of Lund Trust, Graham Morrison, Partner at Allies and Morrison as the RIBA Adviser, Donald Hyslop, Chair of Better Bankside and the Low Line steering group, and Head of Regeneration and Community Partnerships at Tate Modern, and Adam White, President of the Landscape Institute. Entries were judged anonymously, so the identity of the winning team was not known until it had been chosen by the panel.

Further funding for the Low Line has been secured through a £1m grant from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund, which will match a further £1m of investment from Low Line project partners to deliver a number of projects across the area, including some early projects stemming from the design competition.

The Low Line has developed through a group of initial partners including Better Bankside, Team London Bridge, Blue Bermondsey, Southwark Council, the Arch Company, and Borough Market who are steering the initial scoping, planning and communication of the project.