A grand plan to create a major new cultural quarter at Nine Elms and Vauxhall, one of Europe’s biggest regeneration zones, has been unveiled this week. It is an ambitious initiative to combat the criticism that this fledgling riverside district, where 18,000 homes are to be dropped into the landscape within a decade, lacks soul and a sense of community.
Some will fear it will end up being a land of absentee owners, investors and transitory renters. However, city planners and developers are spearheading a project for this shiny new neighbourhood with “fresh urban thinkers” who know how global cities should evolve.
IMAGE GALLERY: SEARCH FOR NEW HOMES TO BUY IN VAUXHALL AND NINE ELMS
New homes in Nine Elms and Vauxhall
New homes in Nine Elms and Vauxhall
1/19 Embassy Works
From £495,000: For many decades, Embassy Works, next to Vauxhall Park, was a laundry factory whose clients included The Savoy and The Ritz (scroll right...)
2/19 Embassy Works
From £495,000: the complex of warehouses at Embassy Works is now being converted into 39 loft apartments with exposed beams and brickwork. Call Call 020 7664 6649.
3/19 The Residence
There are 510 homes at The Residence, 76 of which are classified as “affordable”, available on a shared ownership basis. Call 01689 886400.
4/19 Vauxhall Sky Gardens
From £980,000: Vauxhall Sky Gardens has 204 flats with interiors by Yoo at Nine Elms, completing 2017 (scroll right...)
5/19 Vauxhall Sky Gardens
From £980,000: the 35-storey tower at Vauxhall Sky Gardens includes communal gardens on the higher floors (scroll right...)
6/19 Vauxhall Sky Gardens
From £980,000: the design of the “rococo-style” entrance lobby is inspired by historic Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, from 1729 a centre of art and architecture for 200 years (scroll right...)
7/19 Vauxhall Sky Gardens
From £980,000: two-bedroom flats feature interiors designed by Philippe Starck. Call 020 7437 1000.
8/19 The sky's the limit
From £883,000: Nine Elms Point (left), a complex of 593 flats, is being built beside the new Nine Elms Northern line Tube station in Wandsworth Road (call 0844 811 4334); and Vauxhall Cross towers (right), has 291 flats, a hotel, offices and shops. Call 020 7861 5411
9/19 Nine Elms Point
From £449,000: Nine Elms Point is an outstanding collection of studios, apartments and penthouses in the emerging riverside quarter of Nine Elms. Set across seven buildings connected via landscaped podium gardens (scroll right...)
10/19 Nine Elms Point
From £449,000: homes at Nine Elms Point, a new scheme near Vauxhall Cross, will be close to the Tube station (scroll right...)
11/19 Nine Elms Point
From £449,000: most of the apartments benefit from private terraces or balconies, while some top floor penthouses have access to expansive rooftop gardens. Call 020 7182 2477
From £800,000: Riverlight has six waterfront pavilions with 813 homes, reached via glass-walled lifts on the building's exterior (scroll right...)
From £800,000: only a few apartments at Riverlight remain. Call 020 7870 9620
14/19 One Nine Elms
One Nine Elms, with 437 flats, will include a 56-storey tower and is one of a dozen local projects either under way or imminent (scroll right...)
15/19 One Nine Elms
There are one-, two- and three-bedroom flats at One Nine Elms, the tallest residential tower in London, with underfloor heating throughout (scroll right...)
16/19 One Nine Elms
The developmet will house one of London’s highest swimming pools, on the 27th floor, offering spectacular views across the city. Call 020 3745 5858
17/19 Embassy Gardens
Flats at Embassy Gardens, an eight minute walk from Vauxhall station, include a concierge service and access to health spa, gym and pool facilities (scroll right...)
18/19 Embassy Gardens
Embassy Gardens has buildings of varying height and character, influenced by the architecture of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and London’s Edwardian mansion blocks — constructed of brick rather than glass and steel, with communal courtyards and planted roofs. (scroll right...)
19/19 Embassy Gardens
Located between the River Thames and the Nine Elms Linear Park, the development benefits from spectacular views of Westminster to the east, Chelsea and Pimlico to the north and the iconic Battersea Power Station and Park to the west. Call 0800 404 9009.
The process is known as “cultural placemaking”, where the arts are not a cuddly vanity project for some rich philanthropist, but embedded into the area and woven into its architectural fabric, helping to engage local residents and foster a sense of belonging. Well, that’s the theory.
World-renowned architects are shaping the landscape with showpiece glassy and glossy buildings — satellite projects linked to the born-again Battersea Power Station. Public spaces, including a riverside park, are being designed with art and community participation in mind — for theatre and dance performances, events, markets and exhibitions — while buildings awaiting redevelopment are being handed over to pop-ups.
The power station’s developer has even appointed a director of design and placemaking, David Twohig, to deliver a strategy for a rich and diverse programme of cultural events. “The spaces inbetween the buildings are as important as the buildings themselves,” he says.
Circus West, the first residential phase of the power station, includes a contemporary take on the traditional village hall, while the original boiler house and control room will be cultural venues.
Royal College of Art’s Battersea campus, a recent arrival, is an artistic hub with influence that is spreading to the less glamorous Lambeth and Wandsworth hinterland, where there is an established network of galleries and studios. The college has forged a relationship with developer St James by opening StudioRCA at the swish Riverlight apartment complex at Nine Elms where homes are priced from £800,000. Call 020 7870 9620.
Coming soon is Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery, which will house the artist’s personal art collection of 2,000 pieces, including works by Banksy and Jeff Koons.
Opening this summer, the new space is a redevelopment of listed warehouses where Hirst’s famous spot paintings are produced. It occupies the entire length of a street once considered the wrong side of the tracks. But this grittier side of Vauxhall is changing fast, with the hipsters moving in, and developers offering cheaper loft-style apartments.
Ironically, a nearby fine art storage warehouse belonging to auctioneer Christie’s is making way for The Residence — 510 homes, 76 of which are classified as “affordable” available on a shared-ownership basis. To register, call Bellway on 01689 886400.
Charles Asprey’s Cabinet Gallery is also scheduled to open later this year.
If Nine Elms Vauxhall is set to become the new Barbican, it will certainly be more navigable than the celebrated arts venue, with a linear park linking the individual developments — 29 sites across 482 acres — and a well marked-out culture trail across the district. A “promenade of curiosities” will connect Lambeth’s pocket parks to Vauxhall Cross.
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a revival of a Victorian venue, has put in place a summer programme of outdoor cinema screenings while a temporary ice rink will open for the Christmas and new year period. Boosted by a new pedestrian bridge, the area is also reaching across the Thames to be part of the Chelsea Fringe, hosting horticultural and arts events.
Do the lambeth walk
Nearby Fentiman Road has four-storey mid-Victorian houses popular with barristers and City types. Another hot address is Lilian Baylis Old School. The listed Sixties teaching blocks have been turned into generous-size, big-window apartments while new in-keeping homes have been built in the re-landscaped grounds. Call KFH on 020 7740 2640.
Fabled Lambeth Walk’s Victorian streetscape was marred by redevelopment in the Seventies, but parts of it are being restored. Small businesses and galleries are moving into refurbished shopfronts and over-the-shop accommodation is set to become available.
The big question is whether a wider creative district can be “made” in this way. Can this slowly evolving organic process be manmade? Cynics would question why developers want to forge partnerships with the arts. It couldn’t possibly be for profit, could it?
“I suppose patrons are okay, but we don’t want to be patronised,” says Bridget Wright, 58, a lifelong local resident. “A lot of snooty types from across the river in Chelsea are turning up,” she adds. “And we are already seeing prices moving beyond what many locals can afford.”
Planning requirements force developers to make financial contributions and physical improvements to the local area. In the case of Nine Elms, two new schools and health care provision as well as the Northern line extension are part of the bounty to get the green light to transform an area. The smarter builders have put in place a cultural strategy to win brownie points with local councils and stakeholders — whether residents, businesses or lobby groups.
Mark Davy, founder of Futurecity, a self-styled “placemaking agency” that specialises in cultural collaborations, is at the centre of this debate. He is busy making places and has about 30 developer clients and 100 projects on the go across London and the South-East.
“In the past, creative neighbourhoods were in so-called ‘downtown’ areas with cheap industrial space and bad transport links, but the success of new developments built around the arts, such as King’s Cross, has persuaded the private sector to invest in culture,” he says. “Often it’s about making creative use of an existing budget. London is moving from a capital city traditionally defined by the financial sector to one defined by the creative and knowledge sectors.”
Culture, he adds, brings the energy, authenticity and edginess that defines a modern city.