interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

in june 2020, plans were unveiled for ‘morden wharf’, a major mixed-use development on london’s greenwich peninsula. the project, designed by OMA, comprises residential buildings, as well as commercial, retail and community spaces. it is estimated that the neighborhood will deliver around 1,500 new homes, hundreds of new jobs, and more than six acres of public realm — including a landscaped park along the river thames.

 

with plans submitted to local authorities for approval, we spoke with OMA partner reinier de graaf who discussed the ways the design responds to the area’s industrial heritage, and the importance of the development’s public space. read the interview in full below. 

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london
all images by pixelflakes, unless otherwise stated

 

 

plans for morden wharf were first presented by U+I, a specialist regeneration developer and investor. OMA’s proposed design includes over three acres of riverfront park, known as ‘morden park’, which will offer views of the maritime greenwich world heritage site and canary wharf across the river. the park will lead directly off the thames path and will be open to workers, visitors, and residents alike. meanwhile, a number of the residential buildings will feature vertical green façades that will help provide natural screening and improve air quality.

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

 

 

read the interview with OMA partner reinier de graaf below.

 

designboom (DB): what was the original brief for morden wharf from U+I? was there a particular focus for the direction of the development?

 

reinier de graaf (RdG): the intention behind morden wharf is to create a neighborhood that is simultaneously a place to live and place to work — a mixed-use scheme that would reinforce the local economy. the project is located on the greenwich peninsula on a 2.4-hectare plot of brownfield land, part of which is designated by the municipality as a strategic industrial location (SIL). as provided in the london plan, the SIL is to be developed maintaining the industrial character of the area.

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

 

 

RdG (continued): we have tried to react both to the industrial past and the ongoing developments on the peninsula. our proposal has three distinct characters and each are a response to the site’s immediate context, present or future. to the south, we proposed a high-rise residential cluster to complement the adjacent high-rise development of enderby’s wharf. towards the east, on the SIL land, we placed a multi-tenant industrial facility in response to similar facilities nearby. in the middle of the site we placed a series of mid-rise residential buildings, which bridge the scale to the existing warehouse on the site, reprogrammed to house small enterprises and creative businesses. along the thames’ edge, we designed morden park, an ecological public park straddling the riverfront.

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

 

 

DB: you mention that the project has a mix of different uses and an integration of programs. how important is this in creating a successful neighborhood?

 

RdG: this small site accommodates a relatively large number of ingredients: a significant new park, new homes, new industrial uses, and the regeneration of the existing warehouse. the mutual proximity and extensive interface between these ingredients will generate a form of integration almost by default.

interview-OMA-reinier-de-graaf-morden-wharf-london-designboom-1800b

 

DB: in what ways does your design respond to the area’s industrial heritage?

 

RdG: for the design of the new buildings, we took inspiration from a number of artefacts that existed on the site. the public lobbies of the high-rise sector evoke the memory of cement silos. the undercroft of one of the towers houses a high lobby framed within a structure reminiscent of these silos. the façade of the towers itself preserves the memory of the steel structures of the nearby gasholders, otherwise slated for demolition. a similar structure holds the apartments’ outdoor spaces, allowing the buildings to be overgrown with vegetation over time, almost like an industrial ruin.

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

 

 

DB: can you expand on this importance of greenery and the role of the public park for all users of the site?

 

RdG: morden park will be open to everybody and will act as a buffer between the edge of the buildings and the cycling path following the waterfront. the park is a new element in the industrial context of the greenwich peninsula, but at the same time it represents the rediscovery of its even more distant past as marshland. we have high expectations to what the park will add to the greenwich peninsula.

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

 

 

DB: in general, and with regard to morden wharf, how can architecture foster and encourage communal interaction?

 

RdG: interaction happens through public space. architecture doesn’t exist for its own sake but to frame the public space in-between. ultimately, our proposition for morden wharf is one with little ego, a surrender to the existing context that aims to reconcile the past with the future.

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

 

 

DB: do you believe that urban living will be significantly impacted by the ongoing pandemic? if so, is this something you are taking into account with your design?

 

RdG: the ongoing pandemic will surely impact the way we live, albeit differently than we may currently imagine. we are still in the midst of the pandemic and its true legacy will only be defined in due course. having said that, I think it is almost certain that we will face a reality in which we will spend a larger part of our time at home, either to work or simply because we are traveling less. with its park and unobstructed views towards the river, morden wharf will surely be not the worst place to face this new reality.

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london

interview: reinier de graaf on OMA's 'morden wharf' neighborhood planned for london
reinier de graaf | image by adrienne norman

 

 

project info:

 

name: morden wharf
location:
greenwich peninsula london, UK
design: OMA / reinier de graaf
developer: U+I
status:
plans submitted for approval

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