‘A brave client and incredible community engagement… this project fills you with a little bit of joy’
The Blue Market, Bermondsey, London
Hayatsu Architects and Assemble for The Blue Bermondsey BID
Contract cost: £850,000
GIA: mostly external, Big Local Works refurbishment was 150m2
Despite gentrification, the characterful south London district of Bermondsey retains strong links to its industrial past. Long established social housing jostles with new apartment blocks and smart post-industrial conversions.
The Blue is a historic marketplace, but the closure of many factories and Surrey Docks in recent years left it drab and disconnected. The client was a coalition including Greater London Authority, Southwark Council, and community organisations Blue Bermondsey Business Improvement District, Big Local Works and Community Opportunity.
The architect’s local engagement led to the project’s success. Russell Dryden of client The Blue Bermondsey BID said: ‘The design team worked shoulder to shoulder with local people and partners with diligence… to accommodate our ambitions, shining a light on the heritage and history of a landmark place.’
The designer sought to make the market more locally specific in character and materiality. Interventions included improved connectivity, better wayfinding, and stronger links to the high street. An approach called ‘Made In Bermondsey’, saw designers engage local craftspeople, including joiners who made timber benches, metalworkers who made gates, signage and cycle barriers, and carpenters who built the principal structures. ‘There was a brave client and incredible community engagement,’ said judge Scott Whitby. ‘This project offers a template of how architects can work to make a change, and fills you with a little bit of joy.’
Alongside new electrical infrastructure and storage and canopies for traders, the most distinctive placemaking intervention is the Clocktower, clad in hand-embossed tin can discs to reflect Bermondsey’s manufacturing history. Recycled materials included demolition aggregate cast into a new drinking fountain, and concrete bollards stained and reused as seating. ‘It is an incredibly crafted thing,’ said judge Je Ahn. ‘Commissioning all the different makers is difficult to pull off.’
The project is ‘a turning point in the area’s fortunes and a once in a generation opportunity to empower and strengthen the local community,’ said the client.
‘It is thoughtfully and beautifully done,’ concluded judge Kathy MacEwen.