Above: Artist’s impression of the Viewpoint, designed to blend in with surroundings
Viewpoint, pictured at the centre of the canal
Published: 05 September, 2013
by DAN CARRIER
A NEW viewing platform in the Regent’s Canal at the Camley Street Natural Park in King's Cross will provide a waterside view of the historic industrial area from November.
Finnish architects Erkko Aarti, Arto Ollila and Mikki Ristola have been selected from a shortlist of three Finnish teams to design the new platform by the The Architecture Foundation and the Finnish Institute in London, who have commissioned the project.
The site is on a wide bend of the canal, moments from the new University of the Arts buildings. This played a major part in how the team designed the platform.
“One of the biggest challenges was to find the right solution to fit in the King’s Cross area,” Mr Aarti said. “Many great buildings from different decades surround the bend of the canal.
"Our aim is to make a natural landmark which doesn’t try to show off but instead creates an intimate and cosy atmosphere.
"The size and appearance of the Viewpoint is in harmony with the park, the boats along the canal and the old brick structures framing Regent’s Canal. It’s subtle yet still interesting and inviting.
"Viewpoint visualises the sensitive relationship of man and nature and fits in the borderline of built and unbuilt London.”
The designers have been schooled in architecture that is typical of Finland, blending buildings in with their surroundings instead of making bold statements that put a gulf between the natural and the man-made.
They say taking on the opportunity to work at Camley Street is the perfect spot for their work.
“In Finland nature is always present which creates different demands for the architecture,” he said.
“Obviously, the harsh winter and the extreme weather conditions add a big challenge for the architecture.
"Camley Park is a haven for nature in the midst of London. This is a good opportunity to showcase the Finnish respective attitude to nature by the means of architecture in the heart of London.”
Mr Aarti said they had a series of design challenges to overcome: “Climate and proximity to water create demanding challenges. Materials have to fit in the surroundings and age beautifully. They have to be also long-lasting and easy to maintain.”
He added that they would use three different materials: steel, concrete and timber. “Exterior surfaces will be clad in dark corten-steel which resonates with the surrounding canal barges,” he said. “When exposed to different elements it will change its colour and appearance.
"Hard outer shell surrounds warm wooden interior spaces. Wood creates nice acoustics and comfortable surfaces to sit or lean on. Floor material will be graphic concrete with an animal track pattern that functions both as an ornament and as slip prevention, and it also adds a decorative element and another layer to the very simple design of the pavilion.”
It will also be a haven for wildlife: “Birds can rest on vegetation rafts surrounding the pavilion and fish can hide within the underwater stone filled gabions [cages],” said the designer. And the Camley Street site gave them a unique opportunity.
“Camley Street Natural Park is a crucial sanctuary for wildlife,” Mr Aarti said. “The park is rich in biodiversity and has a delicate ecosystem.
"The pavilion has been designed to add more habitat to the wildlife of the park and to disturb its current state as little as possible.
"The Viewpoint will be constructed from prefabricated elements and the assembly of the pavilion as well as the transportation during construction will take place along the canal in order to minimize the endurance and impact of on-site construction.
“The design has also been developed to sit within a site boundary at the bend of the canal at its widest to ensure safe navigation for boat traffic,” he added.