Washington, United States: NBBJ has today released a concept for ‘Frost Flowers’, a series of natural ice rinks on the River Thames that would restore a once-regular event to the surface of the river. For centuries until the early 1830s, when the original London Bridge limited the flow of the river and caused it to freeze over for large parts of the winter, the Frost Fair was a reoccurring citywide celebration. In celebration of the holiday season, and with an eye toward the current climate talks underway in Paris, London-based architecture practice NBBJ has taken inspiration from this once great London event to return the winter spirit to the capital.
The scheme proposes retractable jetties that would unfurl into large circular discs. Submerged slightly below the water level, these pan-like objects would isolate a thin basin of water from the flow of the river and enable the water to naturally freeze. This surface would become the site of a renewed Frost Fair bringing public ice-skating, markets and exhibitions to the people of London.
The Thames has seen intent interest in 2015 with proposed bridges, floating villages and swimming pools. This concept aims to restore public recreational activity to the surface of the river, in an area sheltered from commercial shipping lanes, with an annual event that would reconnect London to its heritage. Created from a simple foldaway structure, the project could be easily installed and adapted to multiple locations throughout London and potentially many other city rivers around the world.
The Frost Flowers concept forms part of an ongoing exploration by NBBJ into city life and how it can be improved, adapted and potentially evolve. Previous concepts have included a shadowless skyscraper and the transformation of the London Underground into electronic walkways; the Frost Flowers thus complete a three-part investigation into the most characteristic aspects of London: skyline, subway and river.
Christian Coop, Design Director of NBBJ, explained why the River Thames provides such an interesting and important resource for the city: ! ‘In a dense, modern city such as London the Thames provides a unique open vista where the history and origins of this great city can be viewed. A draw for Londoners and tourists alike, the South Bank has become a bustling leisure area with bars and markets lining the river. New space is now desperately needed, and accordingly we looked to our heritage to find one possible solution.’
Concept designs form a core part of the work of NBBJ each year and aim to inform the physical projects of the practice. Releasing three innovative concepts each year, the studio explores how we live in our cities and identify areas for potential growth and innovation. Ongoing projects under construction include a major new hospital in Liverpool, the new US headquarters for Amazon and a stadium for the 2022 Asia Games in Hangzhou.
NBBJ creates innovative places and experiences for organisations worldwide and designs environments, communities and buildings that enhance people’s lives.! Founded in 1943, NBBJ is an industry leader in healthcare and corporate facilities and has a strong presence in the commercial, civic, science, education and sports markets. The firm has won numerous awards and has been recognised as one of the world’s ‘Top Ten Most Innovative Architecture Firms’ by Fast Company magazine. NBBJ has more than 750 employees in 11 offices worldwide, including Beijing, Boston, Columbus, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Pune, San Francisco, Seattle and Shanghai. Clients include Alibaba, Amazon, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, Cleveland Clinic, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Kings College London, Massachusetts General Hospital, Microsoft, Reebok, Salk Institute, Samsung, Stanford University, Starbucks, Telenor, Tencent, University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust. www.nbbj.com
River Thames frost fairs were held on the tideway of the River Thames at London in some winters between the 17th century and early 19th century, during the period known as the Little Ice Age, when the river froze over. During that time the British winter was more severe than now, and the river was wider and slower, and impeded by the Old London Bridge. One of the earliest accounts of the Thames freezing comes from AD 250, when it was frozen solid for nine weeks. The last Frost Fair was in February 1814, lasting four days. The festival would often involve a market and an impromptu public festival. The lastever Frost Fair even featured an elephant marched across the river alongside Blackfriars Bridge.
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