Designing Cities Year 3


Tutors: David Mathewson, Elisa Engel & David Seex

David Mathewson is Senior Lecturer and MA Urban Design Course Leader. He studied at the AA, the University of Texas and Westminster, and has more than 20 years urban design and architecture practice experience in the UK, USA, South-east Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Elisa Engel is co-founder and principal at Citizen Architects. She currently teaches as both Westminster and Linz University of Art, Austria. She studied architecture at Queen’s University Belfast, The Bartlett and Oxford Brookes. 

David Seex is a part-time Visiting Lecturer in Urban Design and Planning, and was previously Senior Lecturer at Westminster for over 30 years. 

Year 3: Re-designing the Old Kent Road

This year’s project is, for the second consecutive year, set in Southwark, one of the GLA’s Opportunity Areas, on the south bank of the Thames. Dating back more than 2,000 years to pre-Roman times, thoroughfare that linked London to the south-east of England was used by the Celts and, later, the Anglo-Saxons who called it the ‘Old Kent Road’ or Watling Street.

Until the nineteenth century, the road was fundamentally rural in character, but this began to change with the industrial development of several adjacent landholdings including the Metropolitan Gas Works, the old Surrey Canal of 1811, leather tanneries and a soap processing plant. In 1845 the Bricklayers Arms goods station opened and the area developed rapidly to become one of Europe’s highest urban densities (up to 280 inhabitants per acre).

The area experienced rapid transformation during the pre- and post-war periods due to large-scale slum clearances and bombing, resulting in the development of some of the largest social housing estates in Europe. Industrial and warehouse development continued in subsequent decades, including big-box retail facilities from the 1980s. 

The area is now the focus of much development speculation due to the large landholdings, high real estate values and the presence of redundant industrial sites. The Bakerloo Line extension along the length of Old Kent Road will further increase the reach of the area. responding to these development pressures, the GLA established the OLD Kent Road Opportunity Area, followed by Southwark’s Area Action Plan. Covering over 114ha and providing up to 10,000 new jobs with 20,000 new homes (7,000 affordable tenure), it will become the capital’s latest high density cluster with a number of tall buildings. 

In Semester 1 the students worked in groups to undertake high-level urban design and contextual spatial, demographic and socio-economic analysis while proposing strategic plans for large scale development parcels within the opportunity area. In Semester 2, they split up to work on smaller sites in order to develop individual architectural development proposals for housing schemes, mixed-use developments or social infrastructure projects such as schools, along with comprehensive public realm design strategies while incorporating affordable housing, employment uses, and aiming to avoid community dislocation and gentrification.  

Archive of Designing Cities Year 3’s work from previous years:

BA Designing Cities Y3 2018-2019