From the Thames to Eternity: Re-using stones from the Thames river wall in the City of London
16 — 24 Sept 2023
Architecture / Landscape, Urban Design
Granite blocks from London’s Victoria Embankment are relocated across the City of London. Designed by Matthew Barnett Howland, Oliver Wilton and CSK Architects, the aim is to expose the stones before their next use, provide places to rest and prompt discussion about the circular economy in the urban environment.
Granite stones from the historic Victoria Embankment have been removed to enable the new Thames Tideway Tunnel and are installed at seven sites across the City of London on a temporary basis until they go to their next long-term use in a new public space in the City. The project aims to celebrate the role of stone in the City’s creation and stimulate discussion about reuse of materials and circular economy in the built environment. ‘From the Thames to Eternity’ is the City of London project designed by Matthew Barnett Howland and Oliver Wilton from University College London and CSK Architects. Starting down by the Thames and Peter’s Hill, leading to St Pauls and Smithfield Market, the fifty-eight granite stones, each weighing around one tonne, have been configured to provide wayfinding, locations to rest and gather, as well as places to reflect on their history. Each site has an information board made of reclaimed oak, providing background information about the project, a map to orientate yourself, and locations of the seven sites to encourage people to walk the trail. There is a symposium and guided walk of the sites on Thursday 21 September, with free tickets available here https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/events/2023/sep/thames-eternity-re-using-stones-thames-river-wall The symposium is chaired by Juliet Haysom, fine artist and tutor at the Architecture Association and includes the following talks: History and Geology of the Thames River Wall Stones, by Ruth Siddall, UCL geologist, The Thames Tideway Tunnel, by Allen Summerskill of Tideway, Re-using Thames River Wall Stones at the Becontree Estate, by Tim O’Callaghan of Nimtim Architects, From the Thames to Eternity by Matthew Barnett Howland and Oliver Wilton, and Challenges of Re-using Stone, by Alex Lynes of Webb Yates Engineers. Chairman of the City of London’s Streets and Walkways Committee, Graham Packham, said: “The Thames to Eternity project is a brilliant initiative that combines our commitment to delivering a thriving arts and culture scene for all to enjoy, with our goals for a sustainable, net-zero City by 2040. Events like these will enliven the City’s streets and venues, encouraging audiences to experience this part of London in a new way.” “I would like to encourage everyone to visit the installations if they get the chance. The stones have acquired a rich character that reflects 150 years of weathering and tidal movement, adding a layer of physical history to their cultural heritage.” Matthew Barnett Howland said: “These granite stones from the Thames River wall are remarkable pieces of natural history and cultural heritage, originally quarried in the 19th century, and now available for re-use due to the Thames Tideway Tunnel sewer project." Oliver Wilton said: "By storing and displaying these stones across the City of London, we want to highlight the long tradition of stone re-use in the City and provoke discussion on the need to move to a more circular model in general.” As a city built on clay and gravel, London has no native stone and so it has always been a precious commodity, flowing into the capital for continuous use and re-use. The City of London is a vibrant example of the historical importance of this material, with rich and diverse stone architectures dating back to Roman times. The stones were quarried in the C19th, mainly in Cornwall and Scotland, for use in Joseph Bazalgette’s Thames River wall at Victoria Embankment. The stones were gifted to the project by Westminster City Council, enabled by Tideway, prepared by CED Stone Group and installed on site by City Corporation term contractor FM Conway. Geology advice has been provided by Ruth Siddall of UCL.