A fruitful endeavour

Nick Myall
11 Apr 2018

Following several years involvement with the project Neil Tomlinson Architects have been given a new commission at New Covent Garden Market in London

Neil Tomlinson Architects has been commissioned for a new stage of work at New Covent Garden Market in London’s Nine Elms, a scheme the practice has been involved with continually since its original masterplan for the market’s future development in 2011, which considered the 23ha site's many component parts and overall relationship to the surrounding area. The area is currently undergoing a raft of landmark developments, from the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and the new Northern Line tube network extension to the completion of the American Embassy and numerous Nine Elms residential developments. The next stage of work for the London-based practice at the market concerns the refurbishment of up to 50 railway arch spaces on the site, in a rolling programme that will complete over an 8-year period.

The first phase of the new commission (1a) involves the installation of new services infrastructure, covering electrical, communications, water and drainage services. Phase 1 will see the beginning of phased fit-outs of individual arches for ongoing market use, covering approximately 4 units a year, so as to minimise ongoing disruption. These will be for the use and relocation of current wholesale market tenants for use for food storage or for ‘slicing and dicing’ food preparation.

At the same time, potential cut-throughs via the railway arches will also be investigated alongside the stakeholder parties, with a view to linking pedestrians coming from the new Nine Elms tube station, due to open in 2020, with the Embassy Quarter north of the viaduct. The new station is to form part of a Northern Line extension from Kennington towards Battersea Power Station and is located close to the site of the former Nine Elms railway station, once the terminus of the London and South Western Railway. Construction on the new station began in 2015.

A second phase of the arches refurbishment project, whose start-date is still to be confirmed, will see a series of the more easterly arches being fitted out as retail and food-related spaces, with a directly consumer-facing remit, creating an accessible front door for the market in anticipation of increased overall footfall once the new tube link opens.

Market History Background

Up until the late 1960s, London’s market wholesalers traded out of the very centre of Old Covent Garden, with local food outlets purchasing directly from traders to fuel their menus of the day. As mechanisation became more efficient and wholesale goods were transported by larger vehicles, Covent Garden traffic was eventually brought to a standstill and it became necessary for the local authority to find a new site in London with much more room for vehicular movement. In 1974, on a 57-acre site, the New Covent Garden Market in Vauxhall was opened. 

Now, over 40 years on, the dynamic of the market and its current location have dramatically changed. The market is no longer sited within a disused industrial area, but at the heart of a new 20,000-home residential quarter. To this end, the market has now necessarily been carefully and effectively planned to hone its logistics layout further, including incorporating a previously separate flower market into the fruit and vegetable market, on a reduced footprint.

Masterplan and Current Redevelopment

The site is currently being decanted for a phased development to create not only a reinvigorated fruit, vegetable and flower market, but a new public-facing element also. The new premises are being taken to fruition by architects BDP together with VINCI St Modwen to an original concept design by Neil Tomlinson Architects.  

In addition to working on the overall masterplan of New Covent Garden Market, Neil Tomlinson Architects were asked to look at a space that will welcome the general public to the wholesale market for the first time. The client’s vision for this space, ‘The Food Exchange’, now built and ready for occupation, is for it to take its place with other great London food destinations and to be an active part of the local community. There are plans for it to host as many as 130 food-related businesses, with kitchen space both for production and demonstration, for hire by tenant businesses. 

The masterplan design also includes plans for 24-hour infrastructure so that not only retail, but also restaurants, banks and post-offices can operate efficiently through the night and into the early hours of the day, when the wholesale market operates at full capacity. In addition, the masterplan frees critical elements of the site’s periphery for residential development that will help fund the redevelopment of New Covent Garden Market.

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Nick Myall

News editor

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