News from Nowhen: Reveries for Walthamstow Reservoirs
My Project, News from Nowhen, proposes an alternative approach to the development of large infrastructural wastelands within the city fabric. Typically such sites are neglected or, in the case of the Lea Valley in east London, capitalised into commercial landscapes and leisure facilities. My project is instead about an architecture where a state of reverie, enigma and immersion are vital for both the understanding of these sites and of my proposition, which is a curated spatial experience. I have designed 8 structures that touch, dive and swim on the Walthamstow Reservoir, delicately creating an awareness of the much forgotten waters of London.
I Watercycle in the London of Water.
There is a built London, a visible London, which extends to the edges of the green belt. But there is also another London, a London forgotten in plain sight, a London which provides the reason why London is anchored where it is at all. This is the London of water.
The London of water is not only a London of lost rivers, canals and filtration systems. It is also the story of how London expanded and how the city slowly ate the countryside around it.
From the Walthamstow Reservoirs in the Lee Valley with a cubic capacity of 3,950 three thousand, nine hundred and fifty million litres, the water flows through the Coppermill Water works into a subterranean aqueduct of filter mains and of single and double pipeage, eventually percolating under the pull of gravity down into the Thames Water Ring, a major loop of waters that is pumped and filtered and links the Hampton, Walton, Ashford and Kempton Waterworks clustered on the Thames upstream of Teddington Weir.
In the last stage of its journey the water is finally pumped back up from an average depth of 40m by way of one of 11 water stations positioned around London for eventual distribution through the domestic infrastructures of tanks and pipes. Following a prolonged summer drought, the waterworks surveyor and engineer, on the instructions of the waterworks committee, prohibited the use of municipal water for purposes other than those of consumption. This is the water that flows from our taps.
II Morning Bath
Walthamstow Reservoirs is one of these forgotten enclaves, a historic operational landscape comprised of great artificial lakes. What if such space was left empty instead of being made into a cultural institution or developed like the rest of the Lea Valley?
As we went, we looked down on the water and couldn’t help saying: ‘How clear the water is this morning!’ ‘Is it?’ he said; ‘I didn’t notice.’
We drew closer to the pool and parted the reeds so that we could see deeper; through the reflections, through the faces, through the voices to the bottom.
III Evening Encounters
It was an odd sort of weather that evening. The sky itself had changed. It was no longer so thick, so watery, so prismatic now.
- The Walthamstow reservoirs -
Separated from the city, up there in North East London, reside those vast bodies of water.
Water, with its weight and volume and density, imperturbable in lagoons and lakes, a gradation of colours in torrid and temperate temperatures. Water with its vast circumterrestrial a-horizontal curve. Water revealed by hygrometric instruments.
The clouds had shrunk to a thin gauze; the lakes seemed made of metal, which in hot weather tarnished verdigris, copper or orange as metal does in a fog.
Walking in the reservoirs, we encounter a series of structures scattered amidst the lakes.
Water’s ubiquity, as constituting 90% of the human body, the pleasantness of its effluvia among the lakes, the freshness of sweet water pools in the waning moon.
Evening comes, and the shadow sweeps green over the concrete structures; the ruffled surface of lakes beneath the empty sky. It’s night.
IV Cleansing Reveries
Another morning scrubbing the structures. The water level went down half a pontoon step last month, but not enough to reveal the entirety of the submarine levels and surfaces. The structure emerges and glows through the water. Still, there is a need to get rid of the traces of mud on its flanks now revealed by the diminished water-line.
The hard-bristled broom dips into the water, and to and fro the water froths. Lightly scrubbing under the polished concrete columns, the water and the ceiling melt. More polishing is needed. The tiniest gap needs filling for it to shine.
Climbing the embankment, a large concrete shape peaks the horizon and a bridge appears as suddenly as the vast body water. It bows and dips down until the space opens up wide in its centre: a film of water on the floor.
Better scrape it and make sure it is not slippery.
From the embankment, the spring board sheens on the shimmering lake. The water level has been stable most of the year. A spring board cannot be slippery, yet a thin deposit coats its surface since last autumn.
Time to go back to the entrance. Climb the gate bridge up 4 flights of stairs. Turning around suddenly, the lakes appear in their entirety and shine, a plate of silver in the sun. The island of east Warwick reservoir is directly ahead.
Heading down, throwing on the uniform jacket. 12 visitors today. One booked for 4 hours, a bit unusual. Then 3, 1, and 3 pairs.
Here comes the first one.
With Excerpts from:
News from Nowhere, William Morris
Ulysses, James Joyce,
Orlando, Virginia Woolf,
Green & Blue, The Fascination of the Pool, Short Stories by Virginia Woolf
School of Architecture
MA Architecture, 2017
+44 (0)7729 036530
- RIBA Part 1, Architecture, Architectural Association, London, 2013; BA Hons, Classics, Cambridge University, 2009
- Architectural assistant, Giuliani.hoenger Architekten, Zürich, 2013–15; Architectural assistant, Käferstein & Meister Architekten, Zürich, 2013–14