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A Great Tower for London

Status: Competition, Short-list
Competition Organisers: Architecture Foundation and GLA
Client: Brent Council & Meanwhile Space
Location: Wembley Park Drive
Team: Percy Weston, Tom Surman, Maël Fournier-Comte

This project – in collaboration with Maël Comte-Fournier – was our shortlisted entry into a place-making competition for Wembley Park Drive in the London borough of Brent. Drawing on the historical context of the site, the proposal reimagines a bold 19th Century scheme that was sadly never realised.

In 1890 Victorian railway entrepreneur Sir Edward Watkin set out to build for a ‘Great Tower for London’ which was to be the star attraction of Wembley Park and Pleasure Gardens. The 358m tall structure would contain a hotel, winter garden, Turkish baths, observation decks and an astrological observatory.

Construction of the tower commenced in 1893 and when Wembley Park opened to the public in 1895 the tower stood at 47 metres. Unfortunately, the tower would never get any taller. A combination of construction difficulties and fundraising concerns halted construction and by 1902 it had been declared unsafe and was demolished. Had the tower been complete it would still be London’s tallest building.

Our place-making design ‘completes’ Watkin’s Great Tower by employing four laser beams to trace out the abstracted volume of the tower. The visibility of the lasers would vary depending on the time of day and atmospheric conditions, creating an ephemeral tower of light and beacon for the area.

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