Greater London Council Department of Architecture and Civic Design
Thamesmead, London SE2. Designed by Greater London Council Department of Architecture and Civic Design. Built 1967–74. Unlisted
Thamesmead is a vast development, originally conceived as a new town, and built on the reclaimed Woolwich marshes. The design was centred around a number of lakes and canals created by draining the marshes, an idea initiated by the GLC’s Thamesmead division leader Robert Rigg, based on his observations of the calming effect of water in Swedish housing developments. The construction used hard-edged concrete panels, which formed futuristic, irregular blocks of flats with accommodation on first floors and raised level walkways to mitigate against flooding; these low-rise elements were interspersed with austere tower blocks. Stanley Kubrick famously exploited the dystopian futuristic feel of the development in his film A Clockwork Orange and although the Tavy Bridge Centre and much of the areas used for filming have now been demolished, the film’s iconography still resonates. The violent dunking of his droogs in the Southmere lake by Malcolm McDowell’s Alex is ironic, given the supposed calming influence of the water.