Friday, January 29

River's Bend

I read an interview in Time Out of architect and planner Sir Terry Farrell, who has worked in London for more than 30 years. Farrell's new book - "Shaping London" - published by Wiley and out now. I will buy it. Here are two comments I find particularly fascinating:

On why London is where it is on the Thames: "The ideal place to put a city is south-facing outside bend of a river because it gives you direct sunlight and a navigational channel for shipping. Becauses of the tides, the north bank will be deeper and better suited for boats than the shallower south side. And you want that outside bend to be at the closest possible bridging point to the sea. That's why London is on the north side of the river, and that's why it is at that bend and not one of the others."


How did the docks 'straighten' the Thames?: "The logical thing to do with the Thames is to cut out the bends and straighten the river, and if you look at a map you'll see that is what happened with the docks incrementally. If we were French, we'd have just straightened it in one go, but that would not have anticipated the size of the ships that would come afterwards. The London way was to build a dock between bends to straighten the river, learn from it, build the next bit and carry on until you eventually get the Royal Docks, the biggest inland waterway in the world in its time. Certain nations go for the big thing, but the London way is to try something and perfect it, which works, providing you follow an intuitive logic and keep an overview."