Rainham: A Coordinated Transformation
A series of interventions in the village of Rainham in Essex - often quite modest in scale - have had a profound cumulative effect. Projects by Alison Brooks, Peter Beard, Maccreanor Lavington, East, Studio Weave, Julian Harrap, and civic.
Rainham Station RM13 9HY
Meet: Sat 10.30am & 12noon Station Forecourt. D.
- Access for wheelchair users
- Architect on site
- Free parking
Lying a 25-minute train journey east from Fenchurch Street Station, the town of Rainham only just falls within the curtilage of Greater London. If you have not made the trip, you may yet have registered the town in passing since a second rail-line – the high-speed link to the Channel Tunnel – runs immediately alongside. While high acoustic barriers obscure much of the view, passengers’ attention is momentarily piqued by the sudden flash of colourful stripes presented by Alison Brooks’ overcladding of a group of industrial sheds, which stand alongside Rainham Station. Completed in 2011, this was one of the first of more than a dozen interventions in the town, steered by the Greater London Authority and the London Borough of Havering. Most are of modest scope, comprising public realm improvements, adjustments to existing buildings and shop front redesigns. Collectively, however, their impact has been profound; bringing the identity of this historic settlement into new focus and consolidating its relationship to the wider Essex landscape.
The programme’s central ambition has been to reconnect Rainham to the 479ha of marshland that in turn separates it from the Thames. Previously a Ministry of Defence firing range, this area was bought by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and opened to the public as a nature reserve in 2006. The design of new pedestrian infrastructure – including bridges, a wayfinding system, seating, play spaces and an education facility housed in a suite of reclaimed shipping containers – has been led by architect Peter Beard_Landroom. The project, which was the sole British finalist in the 2014 European Urban Public Space Prize, is distinguished by its sensitivity to the qualities of a place that is at once a highly fragile ecology and strongly defined by the adjacency of road, rail and river infrastructure. Landroom’s work has a richly tactile character, making extensive use of pre-weathered steel, but is careful to avoid presenting an unduly bucolic image.
The project’s most substantial component is The Trackway, a 220m-long ramp, which rises up from the marsh, initially on embanked ground and subsequently propped on raking tree trunks. The bridge over the Channel Tunnel rail link at Rainham Station was previously served only by a tight, dog-leg staircase, but the Trackway offers a more appropriately scaled connection and establishes a relationship with the other large objects in this open landscape, such as a run of electricity pylons and an elevated stretch of the A13.