Conran Columns: Azhar on Architecture: New London Architecture

Up on the Roof of 22 Shad Thames

Last Thursday evening our building here at Shad Thames played host to the great and the good from the world of Regeneration and Investment.

The soiree, hosted by Terence and Conran & Partners, marked the culmination of “Investing in Southwark”, a day of talks and tours organised by NLA (New London Architecture).

The day started life upstream at Tate Modern with a series of talks opened by Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council, and chaired by Peter Bill of the Evening Standard.

In the morning session, we were given insights from Richard Rawes on “Unlocking Regeneration”, James Sellar, the CEO of Sellar group on spearheading the Shard of Glass by Renzo Piano, and Rupert Robinson, Head of Regeneration at KPMG, who gave a very informative talk on “Attracting Investors”. After elevenses, a range of speakers touched on the exciting prospects for Elephant & Castle, Transport, Canada Water and the future of Peckham and Camberwell.

These were followed by ‘Guided Tours’ around pertinent areas of interest within the borough including Elephant & Castle and Aylesbury (led by Jon Abbott), the new development at Bermondsey Spa and Canada Water (led by Tim Thompson), and London Bridge & Bankside (led by Dan Taylor).

I joined the bus to Bermondsey Spa and Canada Water; a tour led by Tim Thompson (Southwark). We were treated to a fascinating talk from the ever stylish Piers Gough of CZWG who are currently on site with the Library building. I do think the whole perception of distance in London is so distorted, and am always surprised how close to the centre of London Canada Water really is.


Azhar introducing Paul Zara and Sir Terence (inexplicably holding a kitchen knife!)


After the “grand” tours, the delegates headed to “The Apartment”, to discuss the day’s findings over a glass or two. The apartment is situated on the top floor of the Conran Building in Shad Thames, in the heart of one of the UK’s (arguably Europe’s) very best regeneration projects, Butlers Wharf.

I introduced our first speaker, Paul Zara, Director at Conran & Partners who was there right at the beginning of the Butlers Wharf story. Paul talked about how a forgotten part of London had been nurtured into an icon of urban regeneration and mixed-use living and how, through the drive for a high quality public realm, Butlers Wharf became a reality!


Sir Terence speaking about the origins of Conran & Partners, and insights into the creation of Butlers Wharf


With high anticipation, Sir Terence took charge of the microphone, clutching an old copy of the Architects Journal with a front cover showing the late Fred Roche, the co-founder of the architecture practice, Conran Roche, which latterly became Conran & Partners. He recounted with passion the journey they took in creating Butlers Wharf, a ‘new’ part of the city. Anecdotes, such as how the Estate Agents said, “Nobody would ever cross the river!” and how there was no confidence in a “mixed-use” development, flowed…… How wrong they were!


Sir Terence speaking to Peter Murray, nursing a few bruises from his recent charity cycle ride to Brussels!


Credits and many thanks to:

Debbie Whitfield, New London Architecture

Dan Taylor, LB Southwark

Photos kindly provided by Agnese Sanvito

A full list of the day’s proceedings is on the NLA website


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Filed under Azhar on Architecture, Conran & Partners, Conran and London, Conran Columns: Azhar on Architecture

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