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The River Thames in the Urban Environment: People, Space and Water MSc City Design and Social Science Candidate Number 57077 SO449 London School of Economics

Acknowledgements I would like to thank Fran Tonkiss and Suzanne Hall for all their support and excellent guidance. I would also like to thank my fellow classmates for sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge with me throughout my research and time at LSE. To Duncan: Thank you for being here, I could not have done this without you. Cover image: Low tide under Millennium Bridge. Photo: Author, 2012.

The River Thames in the Urban Environment: People, Space and Water MSc City Design and Social Science Candidate Number 57077 SO449 London School of Economics


Look at the crowds of water-gazers there....posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries.

But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling, and there they stand - miles of them - leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets avenues - north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?

Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever...Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.


Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville

1 Abstract 2 Introduction 4 Historical Lens 13 Analysis 23 Recommendations 31 Conclusion 33 Bibliography 37 Appendices


Abstract This dissertation focuses broadly on the evolving nature of use and function of the River Thames. More specifically, it delves into a detailed observation of riverfront public spaces along the Thames within Inner London. It attempts to analyse the use and design of these riverfront spaces and how they affect the user experience when navigating along the Thames Path. After observation and fieldwork along both rural and urban areas of the river, this study decides to focus on the issues posed along the southern bank of the River Thames in central London, where a big portion of the recently developed spaces are inherently tied to retail and dining. It observes how public riverfront spaces are closely tied to commercial use and are increasingly privately managed. The question of value comes up in terms of how the public can democratically benefit from public spaces and pathways that are un-programmed instead of commercially oriented ones. What does the development of commercial and privately managed spaces mean for the future of spaces developed along the riverfront? This dissertation attempts to answer to the following research question: How is accessibility and value, in terms of public space, shaped by the evolution of use and development along the riverfront spaces of the Thames? What changes can be made in order to push development away from privatisation and towards a more democratic and accessible river? This study emphasises the value of spaces that are un-programmed and public, such as plazas and parks. The rise of retail and commercial spaces as a replacement for public plazas encourages strict programming and management that discourages flexible use, diverse users and promotes and overall decline of public life. A user becomes a potential client and the opportunity for making profit becomes the main function of these spaces. Strict security and management become the norm in these new “public” spaces. The river is inherently shaped by the uses and functions of the past, which places a perception of use and value in the public’s view. The current wave of development leaning towards commercial regeneration and private management (Kayden, 2000) is therefore also shaping the public’s view of what a public space is and how the riverfront will continue to evolve.


INTRODUCTION Riverfronts, lakes, parks and open spaces offer a unique amenity to the public. These spaces act as living rooms and extensions of the public’s property, especially in a crowded metropolis such as London. As a visitor or a resident of any city, one seeks these spaces for socialising, relaxing, walking and spending time. The sense of sharing these spaces for a variety of uses is a quintessential element of public life, both for one’s pleasure and the enjoyment of passively sharing one’s lives with others. Riverfronts vary immensely in their conception, management and development depending on the sort of uses they have supported throughout their lifetime. Public pathways, riverside parks, commercial storefronts, restaurants, vehicular highways and industrial docks are just a few of the many different faces a riverfront can take along its path. The banks of the River Thames assumes or has assumed most of these uses in varying degrees along its entirety and throughout its history. The evolution of its use and development is an important aspect to observe and monitor as it affects how the public perceives and places value on the riverfront. The value being placed on riverfront public spaces continues to rise in terms of real estate in cities where water and open spaces are prized features (McHarg, 1996). The Thames is a highly tidal river and a historically industrial dock river due to its proximity to the ocean and its large flat banks, which made industrial ship repairs quite accessible and convenient (Sinclair, 2007). Due to its high tides and wide banks, accommodating for the physical restrictions of the Thames can provide challenges as well as unique opportunities for design. The physical relationship with the water’s edge, in terms of scale and how it relates to the water, can be explored in relation to how it affects the surrounding use. Certain edges allow for more pedestrian use, feel more public and exposed to the water while others give off the sense of being private, interact less with the water’s edge and are less welcoming. These edges have also made the river a source of leisure, which is represented in both the current commercial and water sport activities as well as the historic boat races, canoeing and punting that still take place around Richmond and further upriver (See Fig.1). As the Thames becomes narrower and less tidal around Richmond in the west of London, the banks are more easily accessible for fishing, kayaking and boating. As the river enters the city, the type of leisure changes into a more commercial variety that includes the Southbank Centre restaurants, shops, museums and river cruises. Along the Southbank, commercial businesses and open spaces intermingle where leisure goes hand in hand with dining, shopping and people-watching. For the purposes of this study, accessibility to the river and its banks is being understood through its physical restrictions, ownership and sociological perceptions. Accessibility will be observed in terms of ease of access to certain points along the river, both physically and through legislation imposed on a space. The main issue that accessibility poses for this study is how all these variables come together to


Figure 1: Henley regatta c. 1900. Source:

affect development and urban planning. What priorities are placed in planning and development for access? What effect does this have on the spaces that are being developed along the river? Riverfronts are primarily seen as part of the ‘public realm’ alongside streets, squares, parks and open spaces (Tibbalds, 2001). The issue of waterfronts being either publicly or privately owned is a complex one : At their best, some privately owned public spaces can provide much needed amenities that the city cannot, but at their worst they can be hostile to true public use (Kayden, 2000). Accessibility to the riverfront leads to the role of value and perceptions. The Thames riverfront is particularly iconic in that most of its important buildings associated with government and religion are placed alongside it. Parliament at Westminster, the London Eye tribute to the Millennium, the Tower of London and although not quite next to the river but very visible from the bank, Saint Paul’s Cathedral. With more recent developments like Southbank Centre, Canary Wharf and City Hall, a shift towards commercial waterfronts is becoming more prominent along London’s banks. Parks and non-commercial open spaces are becoming prime real-estate in the eyes of commercial developers. What role should urban planners and residents play to emphasise the value of public spaces along the water and why? Well established areas of the Thames along the north bank, like Westminster, Chelsea and Embankment have an embedded historical stake, which make this river edge unlikely to vary significantly in terms of use. This study will


therefore focus on the slightly more fluctuating, commercially oriented southern bank, where its type of use assumes more fluctuation in tenants and businesses due to the boom and bust nature of the economy (Harvey, 2008) and constantly changing tastes. These embedded values placed on the riverfront of the urban Thames influences the general public’s perception of how a city will decide to use these spaces along the river. Values held by the citizens that use the riverfront have a role in what developers and planners will place in these spaces. What value then does the general public invest in these spaces?

HISTORICAL LENS “Close your eyes and conjure up a vision of the River Thames; what is the picture that you see?...the vision will be one of wharves and houseboats in new coats of paint...the Boat race, nothing more and nothing less...but to others, and these a vast majority of those who know the river at all, the Thames means fresh and life-giving air after a week spent within four walls.” (The Thames, Mortimer Menpes,1906, p.3)

THE PHYSICAL RIVER Before understanding the current use of the urban Thames and its riverfront spaces, one must look at how it created these spaces in the first place. Exploring the past establishes what spaces one can imagine for the future. The River has a total length of 215 miles (346 km) from its source in Cirencester, Gloucestershire to its estuary by the North Sea between Essex and Kent (Akcroyd, 2007, pp. 4-6) (See Fig.2). Historical tradition has it that the Thames ‘proper’ does not begin until below Oxford, where the Thame and the Isis rivers meet (Menpes, 1906, p.4). The Thames is considered to be tidal until Teddington, where one of the biggest locks is (See Fig.3). At Teddington, where the tidal and non-tidal waters meet, the flow of the river is calculated to be that of 1,145 millions of gallons (5,205 millions of litres) per day. The current’s velocity is somewhere between 0.5 and 2.75 miles per hour (0.8 and 4.42 kph) (Ackroyd, 2007, p.3). The flow of the Thames is puzzling in that it does not always flow eastward, towards the sea. It flows north-west above Henley and at Teddington, west above Abingdon, south from Cookham and north above Marlow and Kingston (Ackroyd, 2007, p.4). This variation in flow is due to its Eynsham Thames Head


Lechlade Dorchester





Henley-on-Thames Maidenhead

Streatley Mapledurham


Windsor Old Windsor

Isleworth Staines




Gravesend Putney Greenwich Richmond



Figure 2: The River Thames from source to sea. Illustration: Author, 2012. Source: River Thames Society 4


Figure 3: Aerial view of Teddington Lock, near Richmond. Source: BingMaps, 2012.

characteristic loops, which especially within the city and Greater London is responsible for the many changing views it provides (See Fig.4). According to Ackroyd, in his book Thames: Sacred River, it would take a traveller, “...two to three times as long to cover the same distance as a companion on the high road. So the Thames teaches you to take time, and to view the world from a different vantage.” (2007, p.4). The width of the Thames also varies greatly along its length, with the narrowest width being 1-2 feet (0.3 to 0.6 m) at Trewsbury to 5.5 miles (8.85 km) at the Nore, the point where the Thames meets the North Sea. In the area where this study will be focusing on, within Inner London and more specifically between Vauxhall and Tower Bridge, the mean width is about 1,000 feet (305 m) with a mean depth of 30 feet (9 m). (Ackroyd, 2007, p.4). The tides of the Thames play an important role in the design of its edge and its relationship to the water. To design an edge that meets the demands of the changing tides, one must first understand its speed, the times of high and low tides and what to expect from this. The nature of the tides often gets cited as an excuse for conservative design and blocked access to the Thames, so the question of its forceful nature has to be explored in detail to make this argument a valid one and more thoroughly understandable. Far

Figure 4: From left to right: view to the west from Golden Jubilee Bridge, view to the east from Waterloo bridge, view to the west from Westminster bridge. Source: Author, 2012. 5

Figure 5: The Thames Barrier at Woolwich controls the river’s water level. Source: Moore, D. (2011)

from being a negative aspect of the River, the occurrence of tides has made the Thames incredibly accessible from the ocean and historically one of the biggest dock cities in the world (Sinclair, 2007). The average speed of the tide is between 1 and 3 knots (1.15 and 3.45 miles per hour), but at times of high flow the speed can reach 7 knots (8 miles per hour) (Ackroyd, 2007). At London Bridge, the ebb tide lasts up to six hours and thirty minutes while the flood tide lasts for almost six hours (Ackroyd, 2007). Regarding height, which is one of the most visible and drastic ways the River changes everyday, there can be a difference of up to 24 feet (7.3 m) between high and low tide. The average change in height between the tides, at London Bridge is between 15 and 22 feet (4.5 and 6.7 m). This height change during the tides has changed drastically since the period of Roman occupation, which was just over 3 feet (0.9 m) (Ackroyd, 2007). The rising tide is in part due to embankment encroachments, increasing water levels and the slow subsidence of the south-east portion of England. The combination of all these elements is making

Figure 6: Left: Andy Hawkins, from the Thames Explorer Trust, explains artefacts found on the foreshore (12 August 2012). Right: A sample of artefacts found along the shores, including medieval pots, bones, tudor/victorian plates and clay pipes. Source: Author, 2012 6

the tides of the Thames slowly increase at a rate of 2 feet (0.6m) per century, which will soon render the recent Thames Barrier obsolete (Ackroyd, 2007). The Thames Barrier at Woolwich became operational in 1982 and is in constant need of being closed several times a year due to increasing water levels (See Fig. 5). It is expected to last until 2030, when it will have to be raised at least one metre to accommodate for the expected rise in water levels (Roberts, 2005). Besides this increase in water level, the tides are highly dependent on the seasons and moon phases, which vary greatly between autumn and spring. At low tide one can see the extensive beaches and exposed river beds along both banks. This exposed bed allows walkers to explore the river banks, collect items along it and become aware of the existing tides (See Fig. 6). The Thames Explorer Trust provides guided walks of the foreshore (Thames Explorer Trust, 2012) which provide an incredible insight into the history of London and the river. Along the Thames path in central London, walking next to the water is a rare thing. Being able to get within the water’s reach is usually reserved for people on boats. The varying tides creates a natural path along the river that provides a great opportunity to temporarily access the water. The contrasting nature of the River within central London, Greater London and the outlying rural landscape characterises each segment significantly. Within Greater London, the main pivotal point where the river takes on a different character is around Richmond. The waters here are less turbulent, the river is a place of recreation and the pedestrian pathways are closer to the water. Further upstream, when the Thames reaches Oxford, Ackroyd describes, “From [Oxford] you can look upward and consider the quiet source; or you can look downstream and contemplate the coming immensity of London.” (2007, p.6). These different points along the river remind its users of the significance of nature within an urban city and the varying relationships to the water’s edge. In its more rural state, it promotes activities of leisure and relaxation, while the notion of safety and restricted access is more common as one approaches the city (See Fig.7).

Figure 7:Left: The Thames at Oxford (Abingdon Road). Center: Canoes, cycling and open stairs by the river in Richmond (Richmond Bridge). Right: The unkempt river edge at Kew Gardens creating a soft, blurred edge. Source: Author, 2012. 7

Figure 8: Braun and Hogenberg’s map of London in 1572. Showing London Bridge as the sole crossing available at the time. Image: Author, 2012. Source: London Metropolitan Archives.

DEVELOPMENT AND USE The historical development of bridges within the old Victorian metropolis, is responsible for a significant portion of how the riverfront looks today. There is evidence that one of the first bridges was at Vauxhall, about 3000 years ago (Roberts, 2005), but the most significant bridge erected in 1209 was London Bridge. London Bridge was the first stone bridge over the Thames and was managed by the Bridge House Estates over a period of 500 years, during which it was the only crossing in London over the Thames (See Fig.8). The City of London bought ownership of the River Thames from Richard I in 1197, after which it retained control of the sole bridge and waters until 1857. The City of London actively prevented other bridges from being built to ensure that most of the trade would go into and through the City of London (Roberts, 2005). The existence of only one bridge made the commerce of ferries and river taxis, called wherries, one of the most popular and economic forms of transportation. It was not until 1729 that Putney Bridge was erected followed by Westminster Bridge in 1750. In 1857, the Royal Crown regained ownership of ‘the bed and soil’ of the river, as well as the seashore, and handed over the title and right of management of the river itself to the Thames Conservancy, later to be handed over to the Port of London Authority in 1908 (Sinclair, 2007). The slow development of bridges around the City of London due to this long-held monopoly of London Bridge made for a very different landscape of the river banks. A panoramic 8

Figure 9: A panoramic view of the City of London and London Bridge from 1749, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck. Image: Author, 2012. Source: London Metropolitan Archives.

view of London in 1749, just a year before Westminster Bridge was built, shows the prominence of the heavily used London Bridge as well as necessary stairs built all along the banks as the main access point for water taxis. These stairways provide access directly to the water and puts commerce in the hands of workers willing to provide a service across the Thames. The significance of commerce along the banks foresees the type of river that the Thames develops into today (See Fig.9). In terms of industry, the east end of London was one of the first and largest industrial populations around the Thames (Sinclair, 2007). The type of commerce varied from dockers, porters, engineers, warehouse operators, watermen, costermongers, smiths as well as the riverbank activities involving food-sellers, street hawkers, shopkeepers, marine store dealers and oyster-men (Ackroyd, 2007). The east end was one of the most highly inhabited areas in London near Shadwell, the Isle of Dogs, due to dock workers and the shipping industry. In the neighbourhood of Shadwell, about 60 percent of jobs were in the business of being watermen and sailors, while about 10 percent of jobs fell under shipping and repairs. Another type of work that became popular around the banks of the rivers was the work of ‘mud-larks’, which was more typical amongst older women and young children, who would scavenge the banks looking for items of value (Ackroyd, 2007, p.163). Because of the lack of bridges, the prominence of watermen, establishing


Figure 10: Two views of the docks at Wapping by William Daniell in 1803. Sources: Guildhall Library and British Library, 2012.

The Watermen’s Company in 1555, became one of the defining features of business along the Thames. Watermen were mostly in charge of the business of ferrying passengers to and from the north and south banks. It is believed that around the eighteenth century there were up to forty-thousand watermen making a living on the Thames. Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, this was one of the most thriving types of commerce on the Thames (Sinclair, 2007). It was not until the nineteenth century, when new bridges were built and other forms of transport began to appear, that the number of watermen and their business began to fall. If one looks at the present-day situation around the Thames in central London, ferries and boats are a mostly recreational mode to cross the river (Port of London Authority, 2005). The majority of the ferries and boats in central London operate for tours and leisure. Transport for London (TfL) owns and operates eight passenger piers on the Thames between Millbank and Greenwich (TfL, 2012). There is one ferry which still operates for free at Woolwich, operated by London River Services Ltd., a subsidiary of TfL. Besides TfL, there are over fifty different private boat operators that run vessels ranging from deluxe charter boats, speed boats and commercial river-buses. Around 5 million people were carried in 2008, which is less than the total passengers carried in one weekday on the bus network (TfL, 2012). In 2009, Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced the ‘By the River’ plan to enhance river transport and support the growth of river transportation, hoping to increase the number of travellers to 7.5 million by 2012 (GLA, 2009). The scale of the river today is due in part to the large industry that formed next to the river. Most of the industrial docks and warehouses were located to the east of London Bridge, since navigation was more difficult for barges upriver (Ellmers and Werner, 2000). The East India Docks, in use from 1790 to 1967, were constructed on the site of a large subterranean forest of drowned trees. The Wapping Docks were renowned for, “...covering more ground, under one roof, than any public building, or undertaking, except the pyramids of Egypt.” (Ackroyd, 2007, p.298)(See Fig.10). The trade of the London docks was the largest in the world (Ackroyd, 2007). In the area where the docks used to mark the landscape of the Thames, today the Thames Barrier and Canary Wharf are some of the biggest developments marking the east end of London. The Canary Wharf and London Docklands transformation encompassed about 5,000 10

acres, one of the biggest waterfront transformations to date (Breen and Rigby, 1996). Further upstream from the docks and into Lambeth, the accessibility of endless running water prompted the opening of beer breweries, iron works and other manufacturers (Ackroyd, 2007). One of the other biggest projects to shape the river around central London into what it looks like today was the building of the embankments in the 1860s by Joseph Bazalgette (Ackroyd, 2007). Under these embankments, Bazalgette designed a large sewage network that would prevent raw sewage from being disposed of directly into the Thames. This innovative sewage network and large embankments still shape the current promenades along the river today. The first embankment to be built was the Victoria Embankment between Westminster and Temple, which reclaimed 40 acres (16 ha) of foreshore (Ackroyd, 2007) (See Fig.11). The embankments also fulfilled the job of protecting the shore from high tides and flooding (Sinclair, 2007). Throughout history, the river has been continually shaped, narrowed and controlled. The width of the river at Westminster has decreased from 750 yards (686 m) to 250 yards (228.6 m) from Celtic times until today. (Ackroyd, 2007). Remnants of this change in width can be seen in places like Trafalgar Square, Embankment and Temple. The elevation change in these areas is due to the width of the previously existing river basin. The encroachment of the city into the river also determines the speed of the river, which when narrowed increases and results in a deeper river. As the river and its banks change physically, Londoners adapt their use and continue to shape the scale of buildings, commerce and activities that take place around and within the embankments.

Figure 11: Left: The Thames Embankment, 1867, drawn by Joseph Bazalgette. Right: Memorial to Joseph Bazalgette on the Victoria Embankment. Sources: Wikipedia and Author, 2012. 11

PERCEPTIONS The development of the river as a practical one, due to its proximity to the sea as well as its depth and size, is also a cultural development. Ackroyd explores the cultural perceptions of the Thames after exploring various poems and literature written about the history of the Thames. He concludes that: The Thames is a metaphor for the country through which it runs. It is modest and moderate, calm and resourceful; it is powerful without being fierce. It is not flamboyantly impressive. It is large without being too vast. It eschews extremes...It is useful for all manner of purposes. It is a practical river.” (2007, pp. 8-9) This quintessentially English river, is a product of the cultural associations of use which Ackroyd describes as being, “...a museum of Englishness itself.” (2007, p.9). Currently, the cultural association with the Thames is not so much the commercial and resourceful river it once was, but merely a boundary that gets traversed in many different ways. The most common way to presently cross the river is beneath it, with the underground train system. There are more subterranean channels under the Thames than beneath any other river in the world (Ackroyd, 2007). The first underwater tunnel in the world was dug between Wapping and Rotherhithe (Sinclair, 2007) (See Fig.12). It is curious to note that most commuters and travellers do not even see the river despite crossing it several times during the day. There are also several rail crossings above water which include Blackfriars, London Bridge, and Hungerford. The notion of the Thames as a physical boundary continues to dissolve as the Thames becomes more easily traversed via train, car and overground rail. The psychological perceptions of the Thames as a boundary can still be said to divide London between the North and the South. Ackroyd mentions one of the earliest examples of the river as a boundary between the North and the South, “...[the watermen] were forbidden to moor on the south bank of the river, in case ‘thieves and malefactors’ took possession of their boats” (2007, p.167). This example of south London being a more dangerous place to moor defines the perceptions in those times of the difference in nature between the north and south of the city.

Figure 12: The first tunnel to be built underneath the Thames connecting Wapping and Rotherhithe; completed in 1843. Source: 12

ANALYSIS: ACCESSIBILITY “The right to speak freely in a public forum is a cherished democratic act” - Jan Gehl (1996, p.68) In terms of accessibility and management, the River Thames has always been a source of debate. There are regulations that date as far back as the late tenth century, which set rules for access regarding who could set up weirs, mills and fishing ponds. Weirs were barriers across certain points of the river where individuals and groups would set up tolls attempting to control access along the river. During the late tenth century, King Alfred declared the Thames River to be a public highway in his attempt to regulate the private weirs and tolls that were setting up on the River. The extent of the weirs and tolls had become so great that a big portion of worker’s livelihoods and commerce depended on them (Ackroyd, 2007, p.152). The need to privatise and manage the river has transitioned from the implementation of weirs and tolls to the current riverfront paths. The public pathways, which run next to the Thames for most of its length, are managed by each individual borough through which the path passes through, except where its privately managed by a company or landlord (NationalTrail, 2007) (See Fig.13). Walking along the Thames Path on the southern bank, between Vauxhall and Tower Bridge, is a path that is increasingly commercialised and private, containing spaces associated with retail, dining and mixed-uses (Vasagar, 2012). The businesses, residences and other enterprises that abut the Thames Path give each segment its character and influence its use. Even though the path for the most part still enforces the right of way, the adjacent spaces are mostly privately owned and can potentially restrict access. In Figure 14, one can see a map of the different types of uses that lie along the riverfront from Vauxhall Bridge to Tower Bridge on the southern bank of the Thames (See Fig.14).

Figure 13: Left: The Thames Path from Putney to Tower Bridge. Right: Greater London boroughs in relation to the Thames. Sources: and (2012). 13

Commercial Offices/Mixed-use Museum/Cultural Government/Services Restricted public space Residential/Mixed-use Not accessible

Figure 14: Map highlighting the general use of buildings that are next to the Thames path along the southern bank. Illustration: Author, 2012. Map:

A SHIFT FROM PRIVATE TO PUBLIC TO PRIVATE The question of who owns public spaces in Great Britain is opaque and hard to pinpoint given that the Land Registry only covers 50% of all land and does not aggregate landowners’ interest (Minton, 2006). The notion of publicly owned space is a vague one as most ‘space’ in Britain is either owned by councils, royalty, private organisations, private individuals or financial institutions (Minton, 2006). Only 4% of land in England and Wales is considered to be completely public, or ‘common’, while the rest of it is, “...a patchwork of private landlords, institutions, local government and private individuals.” (Minton, 2006, p.10). Historically, large portions of central London were owned by wealthy landlords such as the Duke of Westminster who owned Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico, the Duke of Bedford in Covent Garden and the


Figure 15: Left: Hay’s Galleria has restaurants on the Thames path and signs that warn about CCTV and restricts users from being in the area past 23:30. Center: A sign as you enter Hay’s Galleria. Right: Security guards at the entrance to Hay’s Galleria. Source: Author, 2012.

Earl of Southampton in the Bloomsbury Estate (Minton, 2006). A shift in public opinion led the London Building Act in 1894 to be passed and returned large portions of roads and squares to local authorities which had been owned by these noble-men. This ownership shift is again being challenged in a postindustrial economy where large sites of heavy industry are now abandoned sites that offer prime locations for regeneration. The shift towards deregulation and privatisation began in the 1980s, during Margaret Thatcher’s position as prime minister, which boosted the prominence of these types of developments (Harvey, 2001). By the end of Thatcher’s time in office in 1990, more than 40 UK state-owned businesses had been privatised (Groom and Pfeifer, 2011). These large, formerly industrial developments, such as Battersea Power Station, tend to be owned and managed by a single landlord or corporation (Minton, 2006). Other privately owned spaces that exemplify this trend in London are: Hay’s Galleria by Tower Bridge (See Fig.15), Granary Square at King’s Cross and Canary Wharf in the Isle of Dogs. With support from the government in the Thatcher era, urban policy helped Canary Wharf become the private enterprise it is today (Malone, 1996). London Docklands was one of the first privately owned spaces of its kind, its main purpose being to create a cradle for private capital and investment (Malone, 1996, pp.20-22). Landownership information from the land registry is complex to track in order to observe how large the shift from public to private has been (Minton, 2006), but the trend might indicate that Britain is returning to similar patterns of Victorian ownership which it sought to eradicate at the end of the nineteenth century. During the recent Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant (Davies, 2012), most of the streets along Tower Bridge and Southbank were able to be blocked due to private business restricting access to the paths that led up to the riverfront (Vasagar, 2012). My own attempts to reach the river were met with closed off access points only granting it to private parties who had purchased tickets. Restricted access to the river and bridges continued until Blackfriars Bridge. Private owners ccould refuse the right of entry to the public throughout large portions of the riverfront due to their advantageous position next to the river. Tower 15

Bridge and Millennium Bridge, both owned by the City of London which is a private corporation, were able to close off these bridges for invited guests only (Vasagar, 2012). A number of developments, around the city and the river, are being built by private corporations. The area around Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms, adjacent to the river, is being developed as a privately owned public space which will contain retail, dining, residences and boulevards (Vasagar, 2012). The argument from private corporations is that they are creating ‘new space’ where none existed beforehand, which is good for funding initiative and getting projects done, but the trend has been leaning towards creating spaces that are sterile and unresponsive to local character and use (Jacobs, 1961). The chief executive for the London Sustainability Exchange describes the nature of these newly developed private spaces as follows: “If you look at the [private] open spaces, it is just a massive paved [area] is energy intensive. In terms of upkeep you need to keep cleaning and grouting them out, but biodiversity is poor.” (Vasagar, 2012). The mayor’s office has published a manifesto for public space, London’s Great Outdoors, that acknowledges the increasing trend of public spaces being developed privately: Where this type of ‘corporatisation’ occurs, especially in the larger commercial developments, Londoners can feel themselves excluded from parts of their own city. (Mayor of London, 2009, as cited in Vasagar, 2012) The fear of not being able to fund and maintain public land is a big driving force for councils to sell ownership of these spaces to private businesses who have the funds to develop them sooner (Vasagar, 2012). Spaces such as these are becoming increasingly common throughout London not just along the river. The current development of Granary Square at King’s Cross, City Hall owned by More London (See Fig.17), Paternoster Square of the London Stock Exchange, the Olympic Park and Mint Street Park in Southwark are some of these spaces (Vasagar, 2012). This trend to regenerate areas through a retail-led

Figure 16: Regeneration of retailing in the UK. Tallon, A. (2010).


Figure 17: City hall walkway along the Thames path near Tower Bridge is privately owned; several signs like this one are posted around the space. Source: Author, 2012.

initiative can be traced to the planned shopping centres opening in North American in the 1950s (Tallon, 2010, p.182). One can also look to New York City in 1961, which enacted a new zoning law that gave incentives and bonuses to office and residential developers if they provided plazas and other spaces accessible to the public (Kayden, 2000). The UK began to adopt this model of retail-led initiatives through shopping centres that were more centrally located and catered to a particular type of customer and crowd (Tallon, 2010). The trend to regenerate by way of retail was successful in terms of accessibility to central locations, government administration and tourism but caters to high-status residents, white-collar office workers and tourists (Tallon, 2010, p.184) (See Fig.16). Among the critiques of retail-led regeneration, like exclusion and gentrification, the other main criticism is the highly privatised nature of them, high levels of security and surveillance and ‘undesirable’ groups that are subject to harassment and removal from these environments (Tallon, 2010). Two examples of commercial riverfront development on the Thames include the Coin Street Community Builders project between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges on the southern bank, where the OXO tower is, and Hay’s Galleria between London and Tower Bridges. Both of these transformations, done in the last 30 years, are privately managed and owned, with cafes and restaurants being the predominant commerce on the river front level (Breen and Rigby, 1996, pp.212-213). When the main purpose of these spaces becomes to consume and create profit, anything or anyone who does not promote the experience of consumption might be prohibited from participating in these spaces (Tallon, 2010).


Figure 18: Left: View of the river from a construction window around Southwark Bridge. Center: Access stairs to London Bridge. Right: View of London Bridge and blocked access to waterfront. Source: Author, 2012.

SHIFT TOWARDS VEHICLE CENTRIC CITY PLANNING In this last century, the rise of the vehicle has also given prominence to the priorities of transportation along and across the river via automobile. The bus network in London is one of the largest in the world with about 7,500 buses carrying more than six million passengers each weekday. More than 90 percent of Londoners live within 400 metres of one of the 19,500 bus stops, and these buses cover about 501.6 million kilometres in one year (TfL, 2012). The bridges and riverfront in central London have shifted from accommodating ships and ferries to cars and buses. The vast amount of motor vehicles has put an immense pressure to widen bridges and place motorways next to the river to accommodate for the increasing number of transportation needs. For the longest time, the River Thames itself was the biggest highway through central London, but now the adjacent motorways and roads overshadow this liquid highway and its shrinking sidewalks. The priority of providing access to vehicles inevitably leads to diminished access for pedestrians along the riverfront. Walking along the southern bank of the Thames,

Figure 19: Left: Golden Jubilee bridge stairway; view to Southbank Centre and Waterloo. Source: San Martin, G. (2005). Right: Millennium Bridge ramp towards Tate Modern. Source:, 2012. 18

Figure 20: Westminster Bridge, with the Lord Mayor’s procession on the Thames by Canaletto, 1747. Shows turrets along the bridge for pedestrian use. Source:

from Westminster to Tower Bridge drives the pedestrian in a zigzagging line to and from the waterfront. Most encounters with the bridges do not provide straightforward crossings, but instead lead the pedestrian on a roundabout path which feels like the equivalent of encountering motorway flyovers at every bridge crossing. The transitions along the Thames Path prioritise the right of way of vehicles instead of that of pedestrians. In between the bridges, the Thames Path, which is managed by Walk London within the London Metropolitan Region (WalkLondon, 2012) attempts to prioritise the experience of the walker along the Thames, but the scale and proportions of this path, especially along the south bank, do not promote a scale to which people can relate to (Gehl, 1996). One is constantly adjusting for abrupt endings, closed gates and roundabout diversions for getting past construction and bridges (See Fig.18).

SCALE A relatable scale is essential to well designed public spaces (Gehl, 1996), and this scale is especially important in riverfront spaces. Separating the river and treating it as an inaccessible motorway that has to keep its distance from the adjacent walkways leads to a non-relatable scale. Its more turbulent waters and fears of flooding have created strong walls that separate the innate human desire to get as close to the water as possible (See Fig.18). The two pedestrian bridges within central London are the Golden Jubilee Bridges, straddling Hungerford rail bridge, and Millennium Bridge. The manner in which these two bridges meet the edges of the north and south banks is massive in scale and again forces the pedestrian to backtrack and loop around when getting on and off the bridge (See Fig.19). The bridges themselves do not provide any seating or areas to stop and take in the view of the river, they promote fast movement as commuters rush by annoyed at tourists for blocking their path. The old Westminster Bridge, replaced in 1862, had on each side, “...a fine balustrade of stone, with semi-octagonal turrets at intervals to provide shelter for pedestrians.” (Roberts, 2005, pg.42) (See Fig.20). Currently, bridges are made more efficient for crossing and not for lingering by designing them without seating or edges that would encourage someone to stay. Some shared-use bridges do not provide accessible and straightforward pedestrian crossings at 19

close intervals. Waterloo bridge is approximately 1,230 feet long (375 m) and 80 feet (24 m) wide (GoogleMaps, 2012) yet there are only two pedestrian crosswalks at either end nearing the intersections where the bridge has not even begun. The pedestrian has to decide on what side of the bridge they want to be on far in advance because a crossing will not be available unless they decide to cross illegally and dangerously. One can cross by descending the stairs available at both ends, which are not disabledfriendly and a very inconvenient manner of getting across, when a simple pedestrian crossing could suffice. Accessing the river path drives the pedestrian into a drastic up and down of stairs, which are a considerable height to accommodate the tidal restrictions the river. The placement of bus stops along the bridges are rarely coordinated with accessible pedestrian crosswalks, usually leading to pedestrians running across the very busy roads (See Fig.21). Less able pedestrians are forced to walk long distances to simply cross the road at a legal crosswalk. This lack of priority for pedestrians, in terms of scale, is one of the main detractors of walking along the river front and having to cross the Thames by bridge.

ACCESSING THE WATER Accessing the water of the Thames is the easiest beginning in Putney, “ it is the first extended stretch in London where it is not walled off.” (Roberts, 2005, p.36). The river is still considered tidal at this point and the tides do rise up to the banks, but the residents in the area have adapted to the nature and scheduled tides of the river while still using the water edge to dock small boats and other varying uses (River Thames, 2012). In some areas where residential developments have been built along the river, the privatisation of the right of way on the Thames Path has been blocked. “There are areas of early gentrification (notably in Wapping) where the right of way is restricted...more recent residential wharf side development have included bars, restaurants and other amenities that attract people to the area.” (Roberts, 2005, p.67). Residential establishments either privatise the Thames Path or place retail and dining spaces along the river, both of which can passively block “undesired” access and activities

Figure 21: Left: Access stairs to Waterloo Bridge. Right: Pedestrians crossing illegally at Waterloo Bridge. Source: Author, 2012. 20

depending on the whim of the private landlord. Access to the water is blocked in several places due to safety concerns as well as private ownership (See Fig.22). Allowing access to all groups of a population to use as a public forum almost disappears when urban spaces become privatised, heavily commercialised and controlled (Gehl, 1996, p.67). 1






Figure 22: 1) Sealed access to water at Westminster bridge. 2) Gated access to water at Westminster bridge. 3) Gated access at Victoria Embankment, private property sign. 4) Gated access to stairs at Southbank centre. 5) Tall stairwell from Waterloo Thames path below. 6) Thames path ends, no access to riverfront from Borough Market. Sources: Illustration and photographs: Author, 2012. Map: 21

Millennium Bridge

RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW TO PROCEED: “First we shape the cities --- then they shape us” Jan Gehl, (2010, p.9) Blackfriars Rail

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS The kind of value that gets invested in these spaces comes down

Blackfriars Bridge

to a city’s priorities in development. These priorities are set by city councils and the public who votes for elected officials. The riverfront must be protected as a un-replaceable, public amenity for both residents and visitors. A system of values and priorities has to be emphasised when electing officials who will influence how public spaces along the river front get developed. If these spaces are increasingly privatised, the role of policy and government diminishes in terms of enforcing priorities for its users, giving private landlords the benefit of profit and

Waterloo Bridge

development. If the ongoing trend of privatising public spaces continues, the legislation and policy that oversees the

Soutn bank

River Thames

development of these private spaces must be regulated more strictly to provide a democratic use of the space. The riverfront and the Thames Path is managed by each individual council through which the path passes through (NationalTrail, 2012), which gives each council the freedom to sell and manage these areas as they see fit. Currently there is no official right of way on these paths as they can be blocked by development and closed Hungerford Rail

to walkers depending on planned projects (, 2012). Creating a definitive map of the Thames Path and requiring that

Golden Jubilee Bridges

the path be instituted as an official right of way, can block further development successfully through policy. The Ramblers organisation campaigns for councils in inner London to produce definitive maps of right of way footpaths to establish these paths as official, but so far there is no definitive map of these paths within inner London because doing so would establish a right of way (, 2012). Docking and mooring on the river is also dependent on private owners and councils that manage the banks giving some companies, like City Cruises, permanent

Westminster Bridge 22

Figure 23: Image narrative of the pedestrian experience between Millennium Bridge and Westminster Bridge. Illustration and images: Author, 2012.

moorings of large barges that stay on the river (Environment Agency, 2011). A policy to create a more cohesive organisation that manages the mooring and docking along the river can make it easier for boaters to cruise on the river and dock on the tidal Thames. Navigation is currently managed by the Environment Agency (Environment Agency, 2010). The trend seems to show that as long as the river front in central London is owned, managed and segmented by a myriad of privately owned companies and councils, the ability to develop a cohesive, user-friendly and accessible river front is diminished. Creating organisations, such as the Environment Agency and the Thames River Management enhances these powers, but these organisations still leave most of the power in the hands of individual corporations and councils to make decisions. In order for a path to become an official right of way, granting access to public use, it must be dedicated to the public by the owner of the path (, 2012). Most of the paths within inner London are permissive routes, but are only open because the owner has given permission for the public to use them. The owner reserves the right to withdraw this permission at any time and these paths are usually closed once a year to prevent claims that they are rights of way (, 2012)(See Fig.24). Redevelopment and regeneration can happen with the spaces that are already there by simply changing policy to adapt and allow for all users. Spaces that fulfil the role of public forum and are public and democratic are especially important in cities where space is more

Figure 24: Examples of signs found along the Thames path at Portland Wharf and City Hall; they make it clear that the owners of the path do not intend to dedicate the path to the public. Source: Author, 2012.

rare. Policy recommendation summary: 1. 2.

Create a definitive map of Inner London that marks paths as an official right of way, successfully blocking development and placing the priority on a publicly accessible path. Create a governing body to manage docking and mooring along the Thames that limits a council centric segment-by-segment management.

FLEXIBLE USE PLANNING AND EDGE TYPOLOGY The issue of accessing the Thames is one that not only depends on the literal ease of access, but also on the activities that are promoted along the river’s edge. Smaller details, like seating, trees and promenades that are not attached to dining or retail can provide more flexible uses along the river front. There are several ways that the riverfront meets the water edge. Some of these edge typologies include: pathways,


parks, buildings, retail/dining and bridges. These edges all vary between being blurred, such as the rural landscape around Putney and Richmond, a bit free, like the edges of Battersea Park, and a tighter border, such as most of the area around Waterloo and London Bridge (See Fig.25). Designing an edge along the riverfront should be less rigid in structure, flexible in programme and easy to traverse. The most recently developed area of the Thames Path, from Waterloo Bridge to Tower Bridge, including the Southbank and City Hall, is closely programmed with retail and dining, restricts use to the public and promotes the sense that paths are secondary to the primary intersections with bridges. Despite the river walk being a mostly pedestrian thoroughfare, the effects of cities planned primarily around car use are still felt at all the transitions between the path and bridges. To get from the bridges onto the river path, or vice versa, one is drawn into roundabout paths, staggering levels of stairs and non-intuitive transitions. Using the extensive fieldwork and research of Jan Gehl (2001) and William H. Whyte (1980) as a basis for the manner in which people use public spaces, one can apply their recommendations for design to public spaces along the river as well. The main critique of these highly programmed and strictly managed spaces is that, according to Gehl, “Low-intensity contact is also a situation from which other forms of contact can grow. It is a medium for the unpredictable, the spontaneous, the unplanned.” (2001, p.367). Flexible use recommendation summary: 1. 2.

Awareness of edge typology and how the river path meets the water edge. Allow for flexible use and non-programmed spaces by designing spaces that allow for seating, lingering and are open to the public.

ACCESSIBILITY TO WATER “It is not right to put water before people and then keep them away from it” William H. Whyte (1980) Water is the defining feature of the spaces along the Thames, but the innate human instinct to interact with water seems to be an afterthought in the design of spaces along the riverfront. Whyte describes water in many public spaces as being, “...only to look at. Let a foot touch it and a guard will be there in an instant.” (1980, p.362). Whyte is referring to water features such as fountains in plazas, but the same can be inferred for the river. The beaches of the Thames are an afterthought in design and are left to the few who venture out in search of artefacts or sun during low tide. Better design can encourage users to interact with the water during low tide and not simply look at the river as a backdrop. The opening quote to this dissertation mentions a passage in Moby Dick and a reference to the innate instinct that humans possess to want to touch and get as close to the water as possible. Whyte says, “One of the best things about water is the look and feel of it...people do it all the time: they stick their hands in it, their toes, and feet, and if they splash about, some security guard does not come rushing up to say them nay.” (1980, p. 362). In general, the Thames is restricted in access citing safety as the usual reason to keep people away. 24

active edge

retail edge

promenade edge

blurred edge

park edge

residential edge

exposed edge

industrial edge

dining edge

building edge

beach edge

construction edge

Figure 25: Different types of edges found along the Thames river path; categorized by their defining character or use. Illustration and photographs: Author, 2012. 25

Figure 26: Pedestrian bridge in Paris giving access to the upper and lower river promenade. Source: Pollice,D. (2008)

Encouraging access to the wide banks of the Thames during low tides should be a priority in design, instead of an afterthought. A variable tide makes planning along the edges more difficult, but not impossible. This connection with nature is a crucial thing in urban environments where an indicator of happiness and quality of life is measured by one’s exposure and accessibility to nature (Farrell, 2011). The awareness of the tides makes it clear that the riverbeds are only accessible at low tide, so in order to descend and use the beaches one is automatically brought closer to nature because of the changing tides. These river beaches allow its users to access a part of the river that is not usually accessible, it brings pedestrians down into the mud and closer to the water. Water recommendations: 1. Projects that take advantage of both high and low tide, not only distinguish between this uniquely tidal river, but bring users closer to the edge at various times creating different experiences.

PLANNING FOR THE PEDESTRIAN Jane Jacobs explains in The Death and Life of Great American Cities that, “...The simple needs of automobiles are more easily understood and satisfied than the complex needs of cities...� (1961, p.83). The massive bridges that line the River Thames have become bigger and taller over the years to accommodate for increasing traffic and weight capabilities. More emphasis should be placed on the pedestrian transitions between these vehicular bridge flyovers and the adjacent street paths (See Fig.26). Constructing more pedestrian bridges to fill in the large gaps between vehicular bridges can provide much needed commuter bridges instead of having only two pedestrian bridges that provide access for mainly tourist zones i.e. Millennium Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges. Distances between bridges along the river


Tower Bridge Waterloo Station

LONDON MusĂŠe du Louvre

Pont Alexandre III

PARIS Vehicle / Mixed-use Bridge

Rail Bridge

Pedestrian Bridge

Approximate Scale: Â

= 1000 ft/.30km

Figure 27: Scale comparison of crossings between central London and central Paris. Illustration: Author, 2012. Maps: Google

can sometimes be up to 3,000 feet. A scaled comparison with central Paris shows how bridges along the Seine occur at shorter distances creating a more pedestrian-friendly experience (See Fig.27). These new or adapted pedestrian bridges can also promote leisure by providing seating, cover, trees and the sense that commuting and moving quickly across is not the only goal. Commuters can still benefit from the added access points as well as enjoy the provided views and seating if they wish. Providing more accessible and key crosswalks on the bridges themselves can also make the experience of transitioning between north and south banks a more pleasant one for all types of users.


Pedestrian design recommendations: 1. Add more pedestrian bridges or adapt currently shared-use bridges for the needs of pedestrians. 2. Enhance the walking experience along the Thames path and across bridges by adding more crosswalks on the bridges.

PRIVATISATION OF PUBLIC SPACE Critics of privately owned public spaces warn that these spaces are being designed, “...on a model that favours ornament --and high level of footfall for retailers -- while community spirit and sustainability are not a priority.” (Vasagar, 2012). Even though access to these spaces is open to the public on most occasions, situations occur where access is restricted and promotes the needs of retail, dining and private businesses. Public spaces have always played an important role in the social life of cities and privatisation of space can threaten to socially fragment future city spaces (Madanipour, 2003). The effects of corporate and privatised spaces along the Thames can be seen in three different spaces that have emerged (and one of which is currently still being planned). These spaces are: Canary Wharf, the site of former Battersea Power Station and the City Hall and Potter’s Field Park (Potter’s Field, 2012) outdoor space at Tower Bridge (See Fig.28). The corporate and sterile nature of these developments is one that Jacobs criticises as, “...monopolistic shopping centres and monumental cultural centres [that] cloak...the subtraction of commerce, and of culture too, from the intimate and casual life of cities.” (1961, p.82). These spaces are setting precedents for how other spaces can be developed along the river. By removing the type of commerce and activities that are part of the everyday, where the public can perform Gehl’s ‘necessary activities’ (2001), Jacobs explains that it eliminates the informal public that is necessary for a good, and more human, quality of life to thrive. Spaces such as these eliminate a diverse public from all classes and economy, due to their rigid structure and strict management.

Figure 28: Left: Security guards at Potter’s Field, owned by More London. (Author, 2012). Center: Rendering for the future development of Battersea Power Station. (Rafael Vinoly architects). Right: Canary wharf privately owned public space. (Pete, S. 2011).


If a space is too rigidly defined, there is no room for informal publics to take reign and for a democratic sense of space to exist. Even though some of these spaces along the Southbank are extensively used, the sense of democracy is not present. “Numbers alone are not an indication of good quality places.” (Gehl, 1996, p.59). At any moment the private corporations that manage these space can evict “undesirable” users, prevent the space from being used in a particular way and continually treat its users as potential customers driving the focus towards retail and shopping. A sense of democracy cannot exist if one is not allowed to use the space flexibly and to potentially exercise one’s rights. Gehl emphasises that it is, “...urgent to strengthen the social function of city space as a meeting place that contributes toward the aims of social sustainability and an open and democratic society.” (2010, p.6). In a space like the Broadgate Arena, in the City of London, the area is closely monitored and cleaned by private security guards (Gehl, 2001, p.115). Highly controlled vigilance in spaces undoubtedly leads to a less democratic use and discourages people from entering these spaces. A true public space, especially along London’s greatest water feature, should be a democratic right demanded through policy and planning. By granting private development, areas like City Hall at Tower Bridge are designed, “ from the inevitable delays of the democratic process.” (Malone, 1996, p.40). Privatisation of public spaces recommendations: 1. Demand stricter regulations of selling public land to private management through policy, as well as attempting to retain inherently public spaces as part of the public realm.


Figure 29: 3km of the Voie Georges Pompidou, on the right bank of the Seine, is closed down for 4 weeks to temporarily create a public beach. Source: Author, 2012.


Figure 30: Left: Hidden pedestrian arcade by Pont Saint-Michel creates a sheltered path along the Seine. Right: Trees planted along a public pathway near the Musee du Louvre. Source: Author, 2012.

Millennium Bridge currently has an installation that plays a recording of water sounds, information about bridges and fun facts about the river and city (Clark, 2012). Simple installations and projects could make an incredible difference by not shunning the river as dangerous and inaccessible, but instead accentuating the characteristics that make the Thames unique. Projects with existing infrastructure, like using current bridges and converting them to pedestrian bridges, could be an example of an intervention on the Thames. Examples of projects in other cities that dismantled large road systems actually reduced the amount of traffic by decreasing the capacity (Gehl, 2012). Every summer Paris closes off one of its main motorways along the Rive Droite (right bank) of the Seine River, and converts the motorway into a temporary beach called Paris Plage (See Fig.29). Temporary projects along the river and motorways can be successful ways to invite users of the city to consider multiple uses for spaces associated with entirely different uses. The Seine River is an excellent example of providing public pathways and parks along the river which are not commercial spaces. Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and with much potential to profit from providing cafes and shops along the river, but instead most of the riverfront in central Paris is reserved for public pathways and parks (See Fig.30). New projects are being considered in Paris to reduce the remaining motorways along some segments of the river by converting them to public plazas and pedestrian pathways (Chrisafis, 2012). The Seine has entirely different physical restrictions in terms of tides, width and the type of industry along the river, but it is nevertheless a good precedent to observe for priorities in public planning. Waterfronts will always carry the weight of having to fulfil many different roles. The River Thames has had to fulfil the role of being a resource, a boundary and barrier, a mode of transportation, a shipping and industry port, and lately a place of recreation. In its current stage of development, the emphasis is on leisure and cultural development, with art museums and galleries like the Hayward Gallery and the Tate Modern. Cities are recognised as, “...primary organs of cultural


development.� (Jacobs, 1969, p.6) and river fronts are prime locations to do so, as long as it is done democratically and with an emphasis on flexibility.

CONCLUSION “This is an attack...on the principles and aims that have shaped modern, orthodox city planning and rebuilding� - Jane Jacobs (1961, p.3) To answer the question of what development of commercial and privately managed spaces means for the future of spaces developed along the riverfront, one can conclude that setting precedents affects the perceptions and values placed on what are known to be public spaces. If that position is not fought for via policy or design recommendations noted here, the future of the riverfront can become a space that is perceived as private and with only specific activities promoted throughout. Accessibility and value is shaped by the evolution of use, and if this use becomes increasingly private and retail oriented, that is how the riverfront will get developed. One can see that previous use and industry has created the life and banks that London has today, and it is only through this past function and use that the riverfront has been physically adapted to its current functions. One of the main points and concluding arguments for this dissertation is that in order to continue to experiment with the design of public spaces and adapting to the ever-changing image of the city (Lynch, 1960), these spaces must remain public and adaptable. The changes noted in the recommendations are a few steps in the right direction to push development away from privatisation and towards a more democratic and accessible river. Privatising these spaces reduces flexibility over the long-term, even if it means that someone builds something profitable in the short term. City landscapes are constantly being shaped and their image is always shifting (Lynch, 1960), and to allow for maximum flexibility and adaptability the city must be able to implement these changes without having to first ask the permission of

Figure 31: Chain stores along Tower Bridge, Tate Modern and Southbank Centre. Source: Author, 2012.


a private corporation. In the short-term, private landlords and corporations have more capital to spend on regenerating disused spaces which the government would like to see developed, but in the long-term this only limits what the public can create and use. Poor planning and little regulation by private companies has shown, in areas like London Docklands, that it can lead to social fragmentation, do little benefit for the local population and create a sterile environment in association with the water front (Malone, 1996). The other main point is that by making these spaces inherently tied to dining and shopping, the diversity of a democratic river front is restricted. These new buildings and public spaces require a high overhead for construction, hence supporting enterprises that must be high profit or highly subsidised (Jacobs, 1961). These businesses are usually chain stores and chain restaurants that are high-turnover and can afford higher rents (See Fig.31). New construction and highly valued real estate along the river front means less diversity of users and is more functionally and economically limited. “Flourishing diversity anywhere in a city means the mingling of high-yield, middling-yield, low-yield and no-yield enterprises� (Jacobs, 1961, p.188). By creating spaces along the Thames that are not tied to retail, but instead place value on simple parks and open plazas, one can return the riverfront to the public who can use these areas to enjoy the view without any intended activity or programme. The priority of consumption and vehicular access cannot encroach on the spaces reserved for public activities designed with a relatable scale to pedestrians. The tendency to make these spaces as a main location for retail and food removes the open and unprogrammed nature of public paths and parks where no particular activity is sanctioned by a company. A simple analogy can be drawn if one considers the river a public road and its banks the sidewalks, which then get developed privately, enforce restricted access and promote a limited function. The main difference being that the River Thames is not just any public road, but a unique natural water feature that cannot simply be appraised in terms of time, distance, cost of land, development and allocated in terms of acres per unit of population (McHarg, 1992). McHarg poses the question of whether we can afford the indulgence of reserving natural-process lands and regulating development on them to capture their value. His answer is that indeed we can and we must (McHarg, 1992).


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1. Rocque, J. (1746) Ten miles around London & City, Westminster and Southwark. Source: London Metropolitan Archives

2. Inner London as defined by the London Government Act 1963. Source: Greater London Authority. Image: 37

3. Central London development of railway network. London Railway Map 1897. Source: London Metropolitan Archive. Image: Author, 2012.

4. View of Old London Bridge. One of the earliest surviving representations of London before the Great Fire of 1666. Wyngaerde, A.V.D. (1571) Source: London Metropolitan Archive. Image: Author, 2012. 38

5. Panorama showing Saint Paulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cathedral and the activity of boats near the City of London. Samuel and Nathaniel Buck. (1749). Source: London Metropolitan Archives Image: Author, 2012.


Port of London Authority


LAT: 51째30'30"N LON: 0째05'18"W


1 SU

2 M

3 TU

4 W

5 TH

6 F

7 SA

8 SU

9 M

10 TU

11 W

12 TH

13 F

14 SA

15 SU



Time 0509 1117 1742 2345

m 0.95 6.56 1.02 6.59

0626 1219 1858

0.87 6.75 0.79


0045 0734 1315 2004

6.84 0.76 6.93 0.55


0140 0829 1405 2100

7.06 0.66 7.07 0.36


0232 0918 1453 2150

7.22 0.60 7.17 0.25


0321 1001 1537 2235

7.31 0.60 7.19 0.24


0407 1039 1619 2313

7.27 0.66 7.11 0.34


0452 1112 1659 2345

7.11 0.76 6.94 0.51


0535 1141 1737

6.85 0.89 6.70


0011 0617 1212 1816

0.69 6.56 1.04 6.43


0040 0701 1247 1901

0.88 6.27 1.23 6.14


0116 0748 1329 1959

1.10 6.03 1.45 5.88


0206 0841 1425 2106

1.34 5.85 1.64 5.73


0318 0940 1553 2212

1.51 5.79 1.67 5.77


0430 1044 1707 2317

1.48 5.88 1.43 5.97


16 M















31 TU

Time 0533 1149 1808

m 1.33 6.13 1.12

0016 0632 1242 1904

6.25 1.15 6.41 0.87

0105 0725 1328 1955

6.51 1.03 6.63 0.73


0149 0811 1408 2043

6.68 0.97 6.76 0.66


0229 0853 1446 2127

6.82 0.92 6.85 0.59

0308 0933 1523 2210

6.94 0.84 6.92 0.51


0345 1011 1557 2249

7.04 0.76 6.94 0.47


0423 1047 1631 2324

7.06 0.73 6.90 0.52

0502 1122 1707 2355

6.97 0.79 6.81 0.64

0542 1158 1746

6.79 0.91 6.67


0026 0627 1238 1832

0.79 6.58 1.05 6.48


0108 0721 1327 1930

0.95 6.36 1.22 6.26


0209 0827 1434 2054

1.14 6.19 1.36 6.10


0327 0942 1600 2217

1.25 6.15 1.34 6.18


0445 1057 1724 2332

1.20 6.28 1.12 6.42


0608 1207 1848

1.05 6.54 0.81

1 W

2 TH



5 SU



8 W

9 TH








Time 0038 0719 1306 1955

m 6.74 0.84 6.82 0.51

0134 0815 1355 2051

7.01 0.68 7.02 0.31


0223 0903 1439 2138

7.19 0.62 7.15 0.24


0307 0945 1519 2220

7.28 0.62 7.21 0.27


0349 1021 1556 2254

7.27 0.66 7.18 0.40


0428 1050 1631 2319

7.13 0.75 7.03 0.58


0503 1113 1704 2337

6.88 0.85 6.80 0.74


0537 1138 1736 2359

6.58 0.97 6.52 0.91


0609 1207 1811

6.28 1.14 6.21


0027 0645 1241 1854

1.13 6.00 1.37 5.89


0103 0733 1324 2000

1.41 5.73 1.62 5.60


0156 0840 1431 2125

1.70 5.56 1.84 5.53


0338 0957 1628 2239

1.81 5.61 1.65 5.76


0459 1113 1736 2346

1.57 5.92 1.23 6.14


0603 1215 1836

1.26 6.34 0.89


16 TH















31 F

YEAR 2012


Time 0040 0701 1303 1933

m 6.52 1.05 6.66 0.69

0126 0752 1346 2025

6.78 0.94 6.86 0.59

0208 0838 1425 2113

6.98 0.88 6.99 0.50


0247 0921 1502 2157

7.13 0.79 7.08 0.40


0326 1002 1537 2237

7.24 0.70 7.12 0.36

0403 1038 1611 2313

7.24 0.67 7.10 0.43

0440 1112 1647 2342

7.11 0.73 6.99 0.61


0519 1143 1726

6.89 0.85 6.81


0010 0601 1219 1812

0.82 6.61 1.01 6.56

0047 0650 1304 1911

1.05 6.32 1.20 6.26


0142 0754 1410 2034

1.32 6.06 1.40 6.04


0303 0917 1541 2204

1.49 5.94 1.40 6.10


0428 1044 1713 2325

1.41 6.11 1.15 6.41


0556 1158 1842

1.14 6.48 0.76


0031 0703 1254 1944

6.80 0.84 6.82 0.44


0123 0756 1340 2034

7.07 0.68 7.01 0.32

1 SA

2 SU



5 W

6 TH



9 SU







Time 0208 0842 1419 2117

m 7.18 0.64 7.10 0.35

0247 0921 1454 2154

7.22 0.67 7.16 0.45


0323 0955 1528 2223

7.20 0.71 7.16 0.58


0357 1021 1600 2243

7.10 0.77 7.06 0.71


0427 1043 1631 2259

6.89 0.83 6.85 0.82


0455 1107 1702 2321

6.63 0.94 6.57 0.97


0523 1133 1733 2346

6.35 1.10 6.28 1.17


0553 1200 1811

6.08 1.29 5.98


0014 0633 1232 1901

1.41 5.80 1.51 5.67


0055 0729 1324 2020

1.70 5.52 1.77 5.46


0205 0900 1541 2156

1.99 5.43 1.82 5.63


0417 1033 1701 2309

1.82 5.75 1.34 6.07


0528 1140 1804

1.40 6.24 0.93


0007 0629 1232 1904

6.53 1.08 6.65 0.69


0056 0724 1316 2001

6.88 0.92 6.91 0.56


16 SU















Time 0140 0814 1356 2051

m 7.12 0.84 7.07 0.47

0221 0901 1434 2136

7.28 0.77 7.19 0.40

0300 0944 1512 2217

7.37 0.68 7.27 0.37

0339 1022 1549 2252

7.36 0.64 7.26 0.46

0417 1056 1628 2321

7.21 0.67 7.14 0.64

0456 1128 1710 2350

6.95 0.77 6.91 0.87

0538 1203 1759

6.63 0.92 6.61

0028 0627 1248 1900

1.15 6.30 1.13 6.28

0123 0731 1355 2025

1.45 6.00 1.35 6.08

0242 0859 1527 2151

1.62 5.88 1.35 6.18

0409 1028 1701 2311

1.49 6.10 1.09 6.51

0535 1140 1826

1.16 6.49 0.73

0014 0639 1233 1923

6.87 0.87 6.78 0.51

0104 0730 1317 2009

7.06 0.74 6.91 0.50

0145 0813 1353 2047

7.10 0.73 6.97 0.60

6. Times of High and Low tides at London Bridge for July-September 2012. Source: Port of London Authority, 2012. 40


MSc Thesis: River Thames  

Graduate independent thesis work for the London School of Economics (2012). MSc in City Design and Sociology