My first job at the GLC in 1980was working on the Flood Defences at Thamesmead. The defence there was provided by sheet piling which was tied back to concrete foundations some 20 feet back. On top of this was a walkway at low level with a balustrade along the river, and then a higher wall which provided a higher flood defence on the landward side. My job was the design the walkways, planting and the balustrade along the river.
Lower walkway under construction with the new balustrade formed from cast iron staunchions and mild steel infill railing panels. The handrails are made from Iroco.
The new brick wall with designs included to break up the appearance. This wall provided the upper flood defence.
At various points along the walkway, there is a cross over point where users can move from the lower walkway to the upper walkway, crossing the high flood defence point
This picture shows the balustrade installed, which had to be the first landscape contract, and the walkway at this point is poured concrete panels with expansion joints concealing the tie beams beneath.
This shows the completed balustrade, the concrete capping over the tie beams, then some planting boxes, then the upper flood defence wall and high walkway behind.
Seats were built into the walls. Here is shown a seat on the lower walkway adjacent to the Thames. The higher level behind the vegetation is the Flood Defence line shold the Thames ever flood again.
The three flying geese still there after forty years!
After completing two sections of the walkway in hard paving, the GLC pioneered the use of a clay core instead of sheet plies with tie beams. The core was enormous in diameter and snaked along the river’s edge. The huge advantage that you did not know it was there. My job was to landscape it, with subsoil and topsoil deposited on top, and shaped to creat a natural looking landscape. Ths I then planted with native trees and shrubs, and created a meandering footpath with occasional viewing points out along the river. Last time i saw it in 2018 some 38 years after its construction, it looked like a natural landscape.
This is my original drawing of the design for the landscaping of the clay core
This path follows the line of the clay core shown in the drawing above. The area looks natural and is rewilded. But its function as a Flood Defence is identical to the walkway and balustrade shown above.
Beneath this vegetation lies the huge core of clay which secures the Flood Defence of the Thames. I created a view point at the top from which there are good views up and down the river.
Carrying out the designs of these contracts was a fantastic opportunity for a newly qualified Landscape Architect. It included hard and soft landscape, paving, brickwork and metal work, and was done to the highest standards. The GLC was a centre of excellence for design at the time. it led the way internationally on the design of brick walls, retaining walls, flood defences, the use of timber and other street furniture. It had a Scientific Branch which produce the definitive Specification clauses for controls for the design and installation of these works.
The abolition of the GLC was the greatest act of political vandalism carried out for ideological reasons by a British government, and when I worked for Docklands and Hackney I spent a lot of time putting right the expensive costs created by this act of stupidity.
This is a masterplan which I prepared for the Woolwich Arsenal at Thamesmead. The land was highly toxic and deemed unsuitable for housing. The GLC plan was to coat the entire sit with a layer of sediment pumped from the Thames, and the nto use the land for recreation and non-residential uses.
The site was a wonderful wilderness and had been laid out as a series of heavy duty ammunition stores built of very thick brick structures. these were linked by a clinically flat network or concrete paths on a grid. they had to be perfectly flat to ensure th fe tranistion of sensitive explosives which were stored in the tumps.
My plan was a huge distict park, with a butterfly house, a model railway, walks and picnic ares, rewilding of parts, and a museum of the arsenal.
This isometric showed how the existing contours of the site would be retained as it was capped, and then developed.
The entire idea was abandoned when the GLC was abolished. the land was given to Housing Developers for housing. many years later I read about toxic materials emerging in peoples’ gardens where they were trying to grow vegetables.
Here the objective was to create a new walkway along the canal for pedestrians and cyclists.
My first contract completed in 1980!