MArch Unit 21 :: Downriver :: Shaun Murray / Simon Withers

A two headed river rises on the twinned heights of Hampstead and Highgate to flow sinuously over and under London for seven miles, crossing fields, running under streets, through buildings and all the whilst accumulating water from hidden tributaries and rainfall shearing off the impervious city to become a torrent, encased within a vast network of exquisitely engineered brick tunnels to finally cascade into the Thames at Blackfriars.

Now enclosed but once a major navigable trading river and London’s busiest port, the River Fleet is visible at its sources as two brooks, the western and the eastern, each flowing into a series of reservoirs until they disappear underground to unite below Camden Town. Once underground the Fleet reveals itself topographically as declivities and deep valleys, meandering roads, architectures swerved by a now buried river, the names of streets and by careful archival research. From Jack Straw’s castle to Chalybeate Well, past Riceyman Steps and Cold Bath Fields, to Little Italy, Snow Hill and Saffron Hill then Red Well, Turnagain Lane and on to Watergate, flowing through the Fleet Valley and the Liberty of the Fleet once known as Alsatia, a free territory and self governing enclave that harboured artists, runaways and those needing sanctuary.

We will walk downriver navigating the courses of the Fleet, closely observing and recording what we discover, mapping the environments, topographies, technologies, people, architectures and of course our speculations. These notational maps will be brought together in log books, these will be distillations and analyses of the very specificcontext from which you will develop your building.

We are interested in agile and highly attuned architectures, in elements that combine and re-combine opportunistically, anticipating environmental and programmatic variations.

X will mark the spot of your site.

***Image: Samuel Scott, The Thames and The Fleet Canal, circa 1750