# STUDENTS /// Port of London Authority (The rise and fall of the icon) by James Wignall

We continue our exploratory series of UK schools’ best projects for 2009-10 with a project entitled Port of London Authority (The rise and fall of the icon) and designed by James Wignall in the Royal College of Arts.
In this project, he introduces a near future City of London flooded by the effects of Global Warming, and thus the appropriation of this new surface embodied by water. In this regard, this project questions the modernist paradigm of the skyscraper (see the gorgeous photomontage of the Seagram Building falling down below) by re-exploring the notion of horizontality in architecture. What used to be the tallest buildings (especially in most vision of the future) become inhabited bridges above the river (sea) Thames.

“When the earth was last four degrees warmer, there was no ice at either pole.”
Mark Lynas, Six Degrees
Both the intergovernmental panel of climate change and the Met Office Hadley Centre predict a possible temperature rise of four degrees in the next millennium. A four degree world will result in the
re-organisation of the planet.
Humanity must begin to ask how such environmental change, rather than being seen as a threat, is in fact a generator to reconfigure our cities and create new altered urban models.
The Romans chose their position along the edge of the Thames where it was narrow enough to cross, but vitally deep enough for the largest sea going ships of the time; London thrived and became the centre of trade for the entire Roman Empire.
Since then the Thames has changed and Victoria’s Embankment was able to control and alter nature’s course. As man put pressure on nature, nature began to fight back and eventually overpowered Victoria’s imposition.
The depth of the River Thames is now similar to that of the Panama Canal allowing the largest ships on the planet back into the centre of London. Through the rising water the state infrastructures are washed out of London’s urban fabric and float above the old city. Centres that people have always traditionally travelled to now have this remarkable ability to move themselves. Wherever infrastructure is needed it can now go.
The Fallen Icon. Inverted-Skyline
Man’s obsession with the grandest, tallest, most indulgent creations have led to icons of absurdity, energy doomed products of a wasteful era. These icons shall fall within a future, energy conscious society; a metaphor for a new type of architecture, a new type of city.
The fallen icons, former vertical typologies have become linear. London’s skyline is now read from Google Earth. The fallen skyline is able to bridge the water and connect the moving infrastructures to London’s dry urban fabric. The starchitects’ skyscrapers have become habitable bridges which, not only allow London to survive in the flooded world, but in fact thrive under the new conditions.

tutors: Fernando Rihl, Charlotte Skene Cataling & Marc Frohn


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