Located in London’s Lea Valley, Walthamstow Reservoirs are typical of the post-industrial landscape patchwork of green space and infrastructure that characterise the valley. A relative vacuum, with limited public access for their 150-year history, the reservoirs have a unique engineered landscape structure; industrial heritage and ecological value becoming a place apart – strikingly removed both physically and mentally from the dense urban populations of Tottenham and Walthamstow that they sit between.
The vision, of stitching this place back into its valley context and opening as Walthamstow Wetlands – a nature reserve with free public access, was a step change for the site and those involved. It required an iterative process of design and engagement with the complex stakeholder group. The outcome of this evolution is a light footed design that accesses and expresses to the visitor the elements of nature, water, industry – the fundamentals of the place. The initial stages of the project were about bringing the stakeholders together over a shared Vision and easing tension between the need for increased access and protection of designated species within London’s main water supply.
The multidisciplinary team of 13 consultants led by Kinnear Landscape Architects developed the following objectives:
– A Green core and main route to absorb large numbers of visitors. The route was envisaged as a landscape that extends through and up buildings linking entrances, creating elevated points and revealing the whole Lea Valley landscape
– Welcoming entrances that encounter or cross water to encourage visitors to change their pace and develop behaviour required for a nature reserve.
– An ecological vision for transformative long term objectives such as reedbeds to support a breeding bittern population as well as mitigating the visual impact of increased visitors on birds.
– Embracing the industrial aesthetic of the site and reused many industrial artefacts as man-made ecology.
Open to the public since November 2017, the shift in the perception of Wetlands continues within surrounding communities as local people discover what they had previously glimpsed beyond high grass bunds or though palisade fencing.
Entrant office name: Kinnear Landscape Architects
Role of the entrant in the project: Lead consultant – Landscape Architect
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
Project location (Street, City, Country): Walthamstow Wetlands, London, UK
Design year: 2013-2016
Year Built: 2017