Royal Albert Dock Regatta Centre, London
Ian Ritchie Architects
Ian Ritchie's buildings often make dramatic and knowing statements in the landscape - the Terrasson terraces in South West France, for instance, or the Crystal Palace park in South London. The Royal Albert Docks in London's East End, has a very different order of landscape. It's flat, with a skyline pierced by the redundant cranes of the obsolete dock, under the landing path of planes coming in to the City airport. His strategy is to bring large scale features to the bleak spot. Two gabion walls (huge rocks held by a metal net, similar to roadside retaining walls) rise to 3.5 metres and define the space where activities can take place. A lightweight steel roof and steel mesh panels where necessary for security are the only other enclosing elements for the boathouse which holds 80 eights. The clubhouse, behind, has changing rooms, a gym, bar and restaurant with full length terraces over the gabion for views over the course, which is being extended to 2000m to become south-eastern England's only Olympic standard rowing facility. Here is a design for a tough urban location, but it also interplays heaviness with the slender delicacy of racing boats.