Great Suffolk Street, Bankside, London
Written by Oryx
Great Suffolk Street in London’s fast-changing arts quarter Bankside is a street of dreams, past and future. It travels a journey through time and place.
Wind back 15 years and this was a ‘nowhere’ place to the vast majority, lost somewhere between Waterloo and London Bridge. As one moved north, a succession of soot-blackened railway arches encircled the entire neighbourhood like a ghetto wall.
If we think back centuries we find a lane through marshy land – Bear Lane – leading to the King’s Pike Gardens, the theatres of the Rose and Globe, and the rough wharves along the water’s edge.
But by 2001 the former Bankside Power Station had become Tate Modern and a steady trickle of art-seekers were to be found venturing along this hotchpotch of a street, speeding up their echoing footsteps as they passed under the arches. They were heading magnetically towards the Thames, to the new home of art, looking out across the river to St Paul’s – linked by the once-wobbly Millennium Bridge.
To reach the Tate from the south was an ordeal in those days, crossing the un-prepossessing cut of Southwark Street, between shabby warehouses.
Wind forward five years, 10 years, today, and a transformation has taken place. This is an architectural collage of a vigour and boldness not often found in London. The Bluefin Building and Bankside 123, frames the view of Tate’s chimney, along my favourite street. Neo, the slightly robotic but well-made Rogers blocks, create new lanes, filtering riverwards. The extraordinary extension to the Tate is now underway – a twisted pyramid rising out of the former clover-leaf oil tanks, and with the new route through to the river, the climax of this street is coming together.
Great Suffolk Street itself has come alive, like a lost garden released from weeds. It has pretty much everything now, from Gordon Ramsay (Union Street Café) to Pickles, a cheap and cheerful café, and of course, my beloved Costa; from art installations to apartments to architects, it’s all there – including our own studio, the CABIN. This is a street that truly feels like home.
Tim Makower founded Makower Architects two years ago. With studios in London and Doha, the practice works on major international projects of architecture and urbanism. In London, the studio has moved to its new home – ‘the CABIN’ – on Great Suffolk Street, a few minutes south of Tate Modern.