Nestled deep in the historic industrial heart the Isle of Dogs, the former Westferry Printworks site presents an exciting and highly contemporary urban challenge. Originally a timber and grain yard, the site fronts onto the Millwall Outer Dock, designed by Sir John Fuller and constructed by John Aird & Co in 1868. The former printworks, built in the mid-1980s, had been operated by the Northern & Shell group until 2011 when the activities relocated to a media hub in Luton.
Key to the industrial expansion of nineteenth century London, the Isle of Dogs has undergone several major urban transformations throughout its history: from inaccessible wetlands and secluded marshes, drained by human intervention to create more arable land; through the formation of relentless industrial docklands and trade interchanges; to the monolithic structure of the printworks, now obsolete. The site is ready for a new chapter in its rich history.
We were inspired by the multitude of layers of heritage accumulated along the immense expanse of the contemplative body of water of the dock. At the same time, we saw the sober realities of a neighbourhood deprived of access to its prime asset; a narrow, uninspiring dockside towpath, dominated by the impermeable printworks site, is the only thread that ties the Outer Millwall Dock to the urban hinterland. Our approach had to start with the existing neighbourhood. How can we reconnect the neighbourhood with the water? How will the urban regeneration of this major brownfield site benefit the established neighbourhood to the north?
We’ve drawn upon the reflections of a place where water and land meet, a green oasis nurtured by the power of the water. We have proposed a new neighbourhood closely tied into the urban fabric of the surrounding streetscape, delivering a transformative change that allows the existing docks to be enjoyed and accessed by everyone.
Northern & Shell
Residential-led Mixed-use Masterplan
Residential and commercial use 185,000sqm
A new active dockside promenade offers the experience of being just a touch away from the water while a pedestrian focused boulevard further north connects two new large open public spaces: Dockside Gardens celebrating the approach from Westferry Road; and Park East, a green feature at the entrance from Millharbour. The active urban life of the neighbourhood is further supported by well-defined streets, with cafes, shops, amenities and offices lining the frontages.
Above ground, several groups of buildings with distinct character emerge from the framework of the masterplan. Internally the buildings provide a mix of experiences that echo the richness and openness of outdoor living. From the entrance lobby, light and reflections of landscaped gardens welcome residents’ home. Lift lobbies and communal corridors are filled with natural light. Many apartments arranged around open plan living, are centred on expansive views out with access to private outdoor spaces.
The building elevations are conceived as a conceptual reflection of the heritage of the site and the docks. This interpretation translates into the varied scale and form, coloration and texture of material, a shared palette forming a coherent cluster of facade expressions. Poised above the edge of the dock, the new waterfront towers incorporate a delicate external frame, reminiscent of the filigree structures of the historical cranes that once commanded the elevation along the dock. Beyond this veil, a sculptured volume clad in warm metal brings depth and a play of light and shade to the facades. Tied around central elevated residential gardens, the inner facades of mid-rise courtyard blocks maintain coherent coloration to the adjacent towers while presenting a more singular brick elevation to the streets.
The Westferry Printworks masterplan embodies the transformative nature of the Isle of Dogs, delivering a much-needed regeneration of the site of the former printworks, turning an underutilised industrial block along the northern edge of the Millwall Outer Dock into a lively new green urban quarter.