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Nefeli Kouroushi — Custom House Caravanserai

The train tracks currently form a harsh boundary between the North residential side and the south commercial side. The two sides have vastly different scales, characters and levels of investment. The proposed infrastructure bridges over the two segregated neighbouring areas and demonstrates how the communities can benefit from cross-fertilising.

Custom House Caravanserai — Civic infrastructure for cross-fertilisation. By Nefeli Kouroushi.

 

Location

Custom House – Royal Victoria Dock Western Terrace, London Borough of Newham

 

Objective

To instil pride and dignity in the existing local community, whilst integrating a new community by creating truly inclusive civic and public spaces.

 

Motivation

The fragmented area of Custom House is in danger of becoming even more segregated through the ongoing regeneration project. This should instead be taken as an opportunity to stitch the urban grain together.

 

Strategy

The civic infrastructure strengthens the physical connection between two harshly separated areas of different scales, characters and levels of investment. A lightweight structure symbolises transparency and facilitates adaptability. By employing a grid system which has the ability to expand and morph, the scheme enables flexibility alongside order in infrastructure-scale architecture. Spaces are designed as a series of layers of varying transparencies amongst which activity takes place.

 

Impact

The infrastructure responds to the lack of cultural and educational provision in the community, and also provides workspaces and training programmes to address its high proportion of unskilled youth.

 

The Custom House Caravanserai provides civic infrastructure responding to the lack of cultural and educational provision in the area, whilst integrating workspaces and training programmes responding to the area’s high number of unskilled youth.
Workspaces, workshops and studios inhabit the second level of the bridge towards Custom House Station. The spaces are designed as a series of layers of varying transparencies between which activity takes place, ranging from open, semi-enclosed and enclosed spaces.

The civic plaza is designed to give a sense of arrival and celebration for the entrances to a performance hall and ExCel Centre. It brings a space for congregation, leisure and around the clock activity to the area. The ramps up and the balconies of the workspace cluster form the edges of the plaza.
At the termination of key routes, plazas and courtyards are formed. The frames create colonnades around the courtyard for the retail and workspaces frontages.

The expressed structure motif is maintained as a consistent language tool, but morphs into a truss structure at the Performance Hall, achieving large, column-free spans. The idea of semi-enclosure translates onto the facade as perforated metal screens. During the day it allows for a visual connection between the internal and external spaces, whilst at night when the building is lit, it transforms into a lantern which is visible from around the Dock.
The perforated metal screen acts as a brise-soleil on the South and West facades of the building, bringing an atmospheric quality to the foyer space from the shadows the pattern casts, contributing to the vast views across the Dock’s edge.

Further work 

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