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Archive for February, 2010

The winning design has been announced in the architectural competition for the new US embassy to be built at Nine Elms.  It’s a dramatic and eye catching design which should be a vast improvement on the current scattering of anonymous warehouses. There is a long and well illustrated description on the site of the winning architects, KieranTimberlake.

The design places the embassy building at the center of the Nine Elms site and develops the surrounding area into an urban park. The new embassy meets all the required security standards while honoring the English tradition of urban parks and gardens as the context for many civic buildings. The new embassy, with its gardens, will establish a strong framework for the urbanization of the Nine Elms redevelopment zone.

There are two major east-west pedestrian and vehicular paths, one existing and one to be improved, and the other proposed as part of the enabling infrastructure for the Nine Elms development. The existing infrastructure is along the south Thames embankment and is composed of a river walk paralleled by Nine Elms Lane. The proposed new infrastructure to the south of the embassy site is a pedestrian greenway that will connect the embassy site to Vauxhall Station, the nearest tube stop to the east, and on to the proposed new Battersea developments to the west. Poised strategically midway between these parallel paths, the embassy becomes part of an urban park that connects the Thames embankment to the new pedestrian way to the south.

The paving about and within the embassy site utilizes the familiar limestone used in many London walks and parks. London Plane trees provide shade and form at the perimeter and along Nine Elms Lane as well as the proposed new walk to the south that connects the site to Vauxhall Station.

Seen from the north along the Thames embankment and Nine Elms Lane, the new Embassy Park contains a pond with walks, places to sit and landscape along its edges, all open to the citizens of London.

Trees near the pond are to be North American species, such as the Weeping Willow and the Bald Cypress. Others, while native to North America, were long ago brought to England and are now common to the English landscape.

There is a lot more about the building itself, but it is the exterior and the landscape in which it is set which are much more important for most of us who are unlikely to have much occasion to go – or be allowed – inside.

The original outline plan included proposals for opening more routes through the Nine Elms site to the river, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.  It’s not clear from this description whether all that has survived – but it’s one to keep an eye on, as it is potentially a significant benefit to our area.  The other direct effect is likely to be increased pressure on transport.  The proposed Northern Line extension to Battersea is still in the Mayor’s Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area Planning Framework, but the US Embassy is probably not big enough by itself to provide any assurance that it will ever materialise.  Increased pressure on Vauxhall, further exacerbated by the policy of encouraging new tall buildings there, risks crowding out existing transport users.

According to the Washington Post, construction is due to start in 2013 and be completed by 2017.

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The Canton Arms has been open for a week, and the first review is in. Dos Hermanos clearly had a good time.

The track record of the new Canton Arms team meant that the chances were good, and it sounds as though the reality has come up to the promise.

The question now is whether they can pull off the trick of being the pub on the corner while also being a more upmarket eating place. Let’s hope they do – and things are clearly off to a promising start.

Update: Giovanni di Lieto is supplying bread – which certainly adds to the attractions.

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Tracking the Tube

As many residents are all too well aware, we live on top of the Victoria Line, a largely benign subterranean neighbour since its arrival forty years ago.  In the last few years, though, the level of noise and vibration has grown to the point where it is a serious problem for some people who live very close to the line of the route.  The map below shows the two Victoria Line tunnels coming down from the north (the right edge of the map) and starting to curve as they come in to Albert Square to line up with the Northern Line tunnels (at the bottom left of the map) for the parallel platforms at Stockwell.  Click on the map to see a much larger version.

Transport for London came to an ASSA meeting last month to explain what they were doing about the problem, but seemed to be slightly baffled by it.  Their normal approach is to grind the rails where excessive noise is being produced.  That was done last August – but without resulting in any reduction in noise.  They are considering what more they can do but it was pretty clear that they don’t have an specific ideas.    We will keep you informed about progress in discussions with TfL, but if you want to know more or if you are directly affected, please email assacan@assa.org.uk or call Chris on 07971 198555.

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of East Enders, Diamond Geezer decided to visit London’s two Albert Squares:

On the other side of town, off the northern end of the Clapham Road in sunny Stockwell, there’s a very different Albert Square. The surrounding area’s characterised by a hotchpotch of diverse residential styles, jammed randomly together as though some Lambeth town planner filled each block by rolling a dice. If so, then Albert Square’s the local 6.

It’s fascinating to read the description of something so familiar to us by somebody who is seeing it all for the first time.  He’s not terribly impressed by the state of the Square garden and still less with the architectural merits of Regency Court.  But other than that, “Albert Square SW8 is a place with true character and history, and even boasts its own blog”.

One of the comments on that piece is a bit less generous, describing this site as “teeth grindingly nimbyish”.  I don’t think that’s a fair criticism – but it’s a good reminder not to get complacent, so I would encourage any suggestions for improvements to the site or subjects we should be covering – and would welcome contributions from anyone in the neighbourhood.  Please send any thoughts to assa@assa.org.uk.

(and thanks to our near neighbour Jason Cobb for spotting the Diamond Geezer post and for his generous words in the comments)

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Now and then

As close as I could get it, these two maps show exactly the  same area.  The lower one will be instantly familiar, the upper one is a small piece of a map of London published in 1827. The whole thing is available online in much greater detail here – click on areas of the small map to get much more detailed scans of the whole thing.  The small area below is taken from this sheet, covering Kennington and Vauxhall.

Interesting to see how South Lambeth Road has bent through 90 degrees since its early life along what we now know as Dorset Road – to say nothing of the metamorphosis of South Highland Place into South Island Place, when there are neither highlands nor islands to be seen. It’s also possible to see very clearly how street names capture traces of the past.  The Lawn of 1827 has a faint echo in Lawn Lane, the sometime grandeur of Clayland House survives in Claylands Road.

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Canton to open this week!

Great news that the Canton will open officially on Thursday 18 February but thirsty locals are welcome to come down on the Wednesday (17 February) night and have a drink. It sounds like it could become a cracking local. Here’s a few words from the team running the pub:

Hello everyone, I’m Charlie, part of the team that has taken over the Canton Arms.

As a Stockwell resident myself I know how much the community needs a quality pub…We want this pub to be accessible to the whole community and whilst bringing high quality ale, food and wine we will do our best to keep the prices down without giving it away!

Servicing the locals with informal dining will be imperative to us as will tempting people from far and wide once a reputation has been established as a dining destination. However… this should be a local pub of old. We want to be the caring, providing, hub of the community and we can be as two partners are already Stockwell residents… We feel that the Gastropub has slightly had its day, so we would like to reinvent the traditional British alehouse. The Canton Arms will have that different angle in that you will be welcome there to simply to drink or to eat. Either way you will know you will be there for the exceptional quality of both.

Dining
The lunchtime menu will be designed to be fast to accommodate those with a short lunch break. A daily substantial braise will be on offer alongside such things as bowls of soups, assorted toasted sandwiches, omelettes and kippers, cured and preserved meats. The evening menu will evolve from lunch but with the addition of dishes prepared to order e.g. Burgers, risottos and stews. Also, large dishes that everyone at the table can share will be available, e.g. braised shoulders of lamb for four or whole baked fish for two

Hope to see you all soon, please do come and introduce yourselves to myself or Trish (Chef / owner).

Welcome back to the Canton!

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Thanks to the generosity of local residents who made the ASSA Summer Fair 2009 such a success, we have been able to raise funds for local community groups, such as the Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library, who have been able to mount two recent art shows at our local library with your support. The first was an exhibition of work by the GCSE art class at Stockwell Park High School that was held in December and January for which ASSA helped in buying materials.

There is now a new exhibition which runs until 1 April of photographs by Sonalle, highlighting the experience of people in ethnic minorities who have come out about their sexuality. More about Sonalle and her photographs can be found on the flyer for the exhibition and on her web site.

You can find opening hours for the Tate South Lambeth Library here.

Thanks to the generosity of local residents who made the ASSA Summer Fair 2009 such a success, we have been able to raise funds for local community groups, such as the Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library, who have been able to mount two recent art shows at our local library with your support.

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