This was a lottery funded project to replace and enlarge the existing pier adjacent to the Tower of London - a World Heritage Site. As well as providing facilities for both ferries and pleasure steamers on the Thames the pier also housed a full international cruise ship terminal for small cruise ships moored in the pool of London. In addition, offices were needed for London River Services; the river section of Transport for London.
As with all transport buildings the overriding requirement was for simple and direct routing for passengers. Changes of direction, doubling back, and a plethora of signs were all to be avoided. In addition, given the prestigious historical context, we set out to design a simple wooden structure that would retain crispness and clarity despite the accretions of time. A building that would still look good in ten or twenty years time was required.
A floating building, built in Holland, and towed across the North Sea is an unusual beast. The contractors were ship builders and had different concerns, unusual tolerances and concerns about weight, etc, which were all new to us. Internal condensation within an underwater structure also caused some head scratching.
The long pontoon decks support a simple steel frame, forming what is, in essence, a long ‘bus shelter’ – simple and robust detailing emphasised the clarity of the design, which in turn leads to operational efficiencies. We were surprised, however, to discover that some people using the offices located in the hold of the pontoons were becoming sea sick - an unusual problem in a London office!