Location: Thamesmead, Bexley & Greenwich, London, UK
Client: London Boroughs of Bexley & Greenwich, Design for London
Consultants: Urban Practitioners, Colin Buchanan, Landscape Partnership

[ 0709 ]

Area-wide vision for the town and associated landscape of Thamesmead, London. The study involves an extensive analysis of existing urban conditions, and proposals for new and existing developments across Thamesmead. Outputs include a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), providing an area-wide spatial framework and key principles guiding all future development. 

Image source: http://www.carltrenfieldarchitects.com/wordpress

Image source: http://www.carltrenfieldarchitects.com/wordpress

Image source: http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bexley/assets/galleries/thamesmead/master-plan

Image source: http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bexley/assets/galleries/thamesmead/master-plan

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos

The plan for Thamesmead was set in the context of London's post-war housing shortage and required a significant physical transformation of the area with the reclamation, remediation and preparation of a 1,300 acre stretch of the Plumstead and Erith Marshes which had historically been used for activities such as grazing and munitions testing linked to the Royal Arsenal. 

The site presented a number of challenges which required technical solutions and innovative approaches to design. The level of the land and proximity to the Thames, and recent history of severe flooding in 1953 required the incorporation of an efficient drainage system and appropriate flood mitigation. In design terms, development was required to have non-residential uses at ground floor, which led to a distinctive typology of housing in Thamesmead with garages at ground floor and habitable rooms above. Areas such as Tavy Bridge were most radical in their implementation with walkways linking maisonettes and tower blocks at first floor level.

The implementation of the Masterplan saw the dilution and adaptation of the original plans with the development being delayed and reduced in both quality and scale. 

The ambitious 60’s Modernist vision which proposed a new town of 500,000 people in the floodplain of Thamesmead disintegrated in the face of wider financial, administrative, and ideological changes experienced in the UK in subsequent decades.  Only the initial Stage 1 was completed, a fragment of the vaulting idealism of the larger master-plan.  This first phase was almost solely housing, with multiple other uses and employment to follow.  These subsequent phases never transpired and effectively marooned the housing communities in a socio-economic island of decline and deprivation.


Photos of the construction of the  of the Tavy Bridge Estate. Image sources: http://www.architecture.com/ and http://www.thetimes.co.uk/

Thamesmead has a very strong physical legacy with parks, open spaces, canals and lakes defining a unique green character and sense of place. However, the resulting town is inward looking and suffers from a poor physical environment and deficit of local facilities. The town centre lacks vitality and the relationship with the River Thames is poor. Other issues associated with the historic development of Thamesmead relate to low quality and deteriorating housing stock, and a sense that open spaces are not properly integrated with the communities they serve.

The Thames Gateway sub-region is currently home to 500,000 people and includes over 100,000 hectares of land which holds the key to supporting London and the South East's future expansion.The East London Sub-Regional Development Framework states that by 2020 the London Thames Gateway will be a new kind of exemplary, sustainable world class urban quarter, beacon of international best practice'.

Investing in transport infrastructure has been identified as fundamental to unlocking regeneration opportunities in the Thames Gateway.The Channel Tunnel Rail Link station at Stratford will not only link the area locally to London and Kent but will open the area to continental Europe and establish it as a European Gateway.

Housing is a key strategy within the Thames Gateway and the London Plan proposes that over the next two decades almost half of the capital's new homes will be built in the area.The Thames Gateway Development Prospectus has identified the capacity to provide up to 160,000 well designed sustainable homes in mixed communities on Brownfield sites and in town centres within the area.

Redevelopment of town centres is highlighted as a key proposal in the Thames Gateway Development Prospectus and significant investments are planned to improve housing, commercial, tourism, leisure and cultural amenities in the area.

Environmental opportunities through schemes such as the creation of the Thames Gateway Parklands are key to driving the growth and regeneration of the London Thames Gateway area.


The study has four key aims which are summarised below:

  • To gain a thorough understanding of the current economic, social and environmental context of Thamesmead;
  • To identify the main issues and opportunities arising from this contextual analysis;
  • To identify appropriate planning and non planning policy approach to address these issues and opportunities; and
  • To develop appropriate strategy and policy document(s) in line with 3 above.

In line with these aims, the study has two main objectives:

  • To co-ordinate the actions of the two Boroughs and the three major partners; and
  • To provide a basis to bid for regeneration funding.


  • Increasing car use, high carbon dioxide emissions and poor air quality;
  • Improvement of and access to Biodiversity Action Plan species and habitats;
  • Flood risk;
  • Water resources;
  • The quality of the townscape, views and vistas;
  • The quality of landscapes and open space;
  • Land quality; and
  • The quality of housing.

Biodiversity and environmental protection

  • To protect, restore and enhance biodiversity, flora and fauna;
  • To protect, restore and enhance the quality of landscapes and townscapes, including open space.

Climate change and air quality

  • To limit air pollution levels, to adhere to levels set out in the national air quality strategy and improve overall air quality
  • To reduce negative contributions to climate change, to reduce vulnerability to climate change and to improve the localities ability to adapt to climate change 

Natural and environmental resources

  • To improve land, soil and water quality, reduce contamination and encourage the sustainable use of these resources;
  • To reduce fluvial and surface water flood risk;
  • To minimise the production of waste, increase landfill diversion and promote sustainable waste management and recycling;
  • To reduce light and noise pollution 


  • Resident satisfaction with sports, leisure and culture facilities;
  • Provision of and access to essential services;
  • Adequate access to public transport, connectivity, ease of movement and safety;
  • Pockets of deprivation within the Thamesmead site;
  • Fear of crime;
  • The quality of housing;
  • Education and skills

Social inclusion

  • To reduce poverty and social exclusion, encourage a sense of place, community identity and belonging
  • To improve the education and skills of the population overall
  • To improve access to essential facilities and services, especially where there is disadvantage
  • To provide everyone with the opportunity to live in a decent, affordable and appropriate home
  • To ensure a mixed housing supply to support a diverse community


  • To improve the quality and cleanliness of where people live
  • To improve the health and well being of the population
  • To reduce and prevent crime and fear of crime
  • To provide everyone with the opportunity for rewarding and satisfying employment


  • Attraction of inward investment
  • Unemployment and employment opportunities; and
  • The quality of employment areas

Economic development and activity

  • To encourage and accommodate sustainable levels of prosperity and economic growth, reducing disparity in economic performance
  • To encourage and accommodate the indigenous economy and potential inward investment

Land use and development patterns

  • To reduce the need to travel by delivering more sustainable patterns of urban development, to reduce car dependency and to encourage more sustainable modes of transport
  • To promote sustainable urban living 

Cultural heritage and conservation

  • To maintain and, where appropriate, enhance areas or buildings designated for their historic and/or archaeological interest and protect their settings
  • To create places, spaces and buildings that are well designed, integrate with and enhance the diversity and distinctiveness of the local character appropriate home

Text from the submission documentation produced by all consultants.


Assemblage has carried out numerous analysis and urban designs across London. Below are a sample of the projects carried out for Urban Practitioners.


Leyton, Waltham Forest, London, UK

  • Future loading on the transport infrastructure of this area of London was analysed in this study by desk modelling the housing capacities of available and up coming sites in the surrounding catchment area [ 0618 ]

Black Horse Lane, Waltham Forest, London, UK

  • Alteration and further development of an existing masterplan. The study includes reconfiguring building heights and placements, calculation of dwelling unit types and densities, and resolution of parking and access configurations. [ 0615 ]

Eastham, Newham, London, UK

  • A development study for the historic Town Hall precinct in East Ham, London. The study area takes in a number of listed buildings over two city blocks, including the Town Hall, Old Technical College, Town Hall Annexe, and Old Gym.
  • Radically, the study proposes a new civic space parallel to Barking Road which works to group the historic buildings and focus new development. Indicative companion housing projects are also proposed. Whilst achieving required yields and meeting London Plan and Local Plan constraints, the proposed buildings maintain a dynamism and strong urban quality. [ 0611 ]

Gants Hill, London, UK

  • Housing capacity study of the Gants Hill roundabout/Tube station area. The study proposes an indicative master-plan to test and confirm proposed unit densities and massing. The study examines a number of issues in detail: access, car parking, circulation, amenity space, unit geometries; unit type mixes and architectural layout, tenure options, massing, and daylight penetration. [ 0516 ]

Clapham, London, UK

  • Options analysis for development of the urban block fronting Clapham High Street containing Clapham Baths. As the site is surrounded by established residential streets, contains existing mixed uses, and engages two Conservation Areas, the development options proposed strike a complex balance between market expectations and planning constraints. [ 0512 ]

Assemblage has also carried out numerous analysis and urban designs across the United Kingdom for Urban Practitioners.

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK

  • Study addressing the development possibilities and technical problems raised by two major landslips in the sloping terrain of Cliffs Gardens at Southend-on-Sea. A public gallery and museum is proposed on one of the slip sites, taking advantage of the vigorous topography, garden setting, and extensive views. [ 0523 ]

Dover, Kent, UK

  • Analysis and masterplan strategies setting out urban principles for Dover, together with a sequence of site studies along the two main spinal routes of the central district. The studies and recommendations are for a variety of urban elements including built form, open space, axes and sight-lines, water, vegetation, and not least, the extraordinary local topography. [ 0515 ]


 Cranbrook, Kent, UK

  • A site study exploring options for redevelopment of an existing community facility. The study focuses on issues such as area and unit yields, parking, amenity, potential uses, plot distribution, and massing. [ 0701 ]
United Kingdom Dot Density Map  Image source: http://www.tekja.com/

United Kingdom Dot Density Map 
Image source: http://www.tekja.com/

Dacorum, Hertfordshire, UK

  • Assessment of urban characteristics of Dacorum’s towns and villages to guide urban design policies in the Council’s new LDF. The assessment makes a rigorous analysis across an array of criteria ranging from heights, densities, and setbacks, to materials/textures and street-scape elements.
  • A series of specially selected sites were tested across the Borough for their capacity to absorb further housing. Particular account was taken of the Dacorum Urban Design Assessment in order to determine appropriate massing and plot configurations for new development. The findings of the study were used to extrapolate estimates for housing capacity for the wider Borough. The project included training of Dacorum BC planning officers with the new recommendations.


Image source - Hyeyoung Kim, UCL BPro MArch UD RC12 2013/14

Image source - Hyeyoung Kim, UCL BPro MArch UD RC12 2013/14

After Morocco’s independence in 1958 till the ascendance of the current King Mohammed VI the population of Tangier has been neglected through the absence of a state which has shown little interest in the city’s economic, social or environmental development.The population growth rate quadrupled in the 25 years preceding 2007 [1]. The region underwent an intense population growth precisely whilst the city did not have plans for its development. 

During this period, a particular type of marginalised habitation proliferated. Whilst the flat, easier to develop areas closer to the coast were controlled, flood zones, steep terrains and agricultural land to the periphery became saturated by unrestricted construction. These areas were covered with a vast blanket of single family housing units, with a visible homogeneity, fundamentally different from the rest of the city. These areas have been termed the ‘non-regulated housing neighbourhoods’ (NRHN) [2]. By the early 90’s, NRHN represented 30% of the overall housing stock, with a third of Tangier’s population living on a tenth of its condensed surface[2]

Developed NRHN settlements are dense with a tight grain, they do not grow consecutively and are not planned. Instead they are developed spontaneously by grasping the best opportunity, therefore initially neighbourhoods are often not contiguous. Construction is phased from the ground up, relating to systems of affordability and speculation. The settlements are also given the term ‘under equipped’ because of their lack of basic infrastructure[2]. Public facilities such as schools, health centres and street lighting have begun to be added retrospectively to the periphery of developed settlements, with their own inherent problems. NRHN are not unique to Tangier but are found throughout Africa, India and Latin America.


[1]     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Tangier

[2]     Le Tellier J. , Les recompositions territoriales dans le Maroc du nord, Aix-Marseille University, 2006


Tangier’s urban territory and limits - Image source:  Agence Urbaine de Tanger, 2013.

Tangier’s urban territory and limits - Image source:  Agence Urbaine de Tanger, 2013.

Image source - Nicole Rochette, UCL BPro MArch UD RC12 2012/13

Image source - Nicole Rochette, UCL BPro MArch UD RC12 2012/13


Location: Tangier, Morocco
Research Student: Nicole Rochette, UCL BPro MArch UD RC12 2012/13        


Tangier has been subject during the last decades to strong migratory movements both from foreign and rural regions, intensely pressuring its built capacity. Political conditions have favoured a vast proliferation of self-built houses extending the limits of the urban realm. a sprawling blanket of housing that spreads beyond the urban realm,

In this context, the project proposes a dialectic order that attempts to generate spaces of differentiation. Having as the main objective to introduce large scale functions into homogeneous housing environments, the research insists on attaining a horizontal surface through topographic operations, in an effort to generate directionalities and enhance the qualities of the context, facilitating community activities.

The resulting forms integrate the desired programmes within their morphology, merging them into a single functional topology. The project effectively incorporates a wide range of public and private functions based on the location of new local administrative centres.