Nine Elms Garden Town: UCL students win prestigious international award for 21st garden city vision for Battersea, London

A group of students from the University College London (UCL) are celebrating winning an international competition to re-imagine a garden city for the 21st century. Their winning entry, which beat over 90 entries from across the world, sets out an inspiring vision of how the Nine Elms estate in Battersea, south London could be transformed into a beautiful, inclusive and sustainable new community – Elmside Garden Town.

This competition was run by leading housing and planning charity, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) – originally the Garden Cities Association – as part of the International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP) centenary celebrations in recognition of the inspiration that the garden city movement has generated for over a century across the globe.

Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive said:

“More than a century after Ebenezer Howard founded the first garden city, the number and quality of entries from across the world to this competition – from South Africa and New Zealand to Georgia, Malaysia and America, as well as closer to home from Sheffield and London -has illustrated how the garden city principles still inspire and resonate today.

“The winning UCL entry is a powerful and innovative vision of how to create durable, beautiful and sustainable communities fit for the 21stcentury and worthy of the ‘garden city’ accolade. Elmside Garden Town considers how we can achieve healthy places which will accommodate our ageing society and migration; a community that is resilient to climate change and engages with economic, technological and industrial transformation; and ultimately a place which has social justice at its heart.”

Hong Nguyen, Heeseo Rain Kwon, Choo LiJie, Hubert Perlinski, Tsz-Chung Joe Tam and Zhibin Simon Xian make up the winning team for Elmside Garden Town. Working under the fictional consultancy name ‘Joli Sibert & Associates’ they write in their Garden Town vision:

“We believe that the garden city principles remain as true today as they did a century ago. To us, the Garden City is about enabling people from different backgrounds to pursue a high quality of life: having fair access to housing, facilities and open space. It is about breaking barriers between classes in the capitalist system to empower communities. It is about self-sufficiency and managing population growth within the context of wider urban and environmental systems.

“Our proposal uses Nine Elms as a test-bed to re-imagine Howard’s principles and comprehensively plan for a new Elmside ‘Garden Town In-town’ as a socially and environmentally balanced alternative to the current development being realised in the area. We have devised a delivery and financing system informed by Howard’s ethos of community ownership and participation. Within a myriad of stakeholders and actors, the masterplan and urban design guidelines become a crucial tool for regulation, collaboration and participation to realise the physical conditions for a healthy, diverse and self-sufficient Garden Town In-town community.”

The judging panel who kindly gave up their time for this competition was made up of Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive (Chair of Judging Panel); Dr Hugh Ellis, TCPA Chief Planner; Katy Lock, TCPA Garden Cities and New Towns Advocate; Tony Mulhall, Associate Director Land Professional Group, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; Dr Elisabete Cidre, Senior Teaching Fellow in Urban Design, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL; Wei Yang, Managing Director of Wei Yang & Partners Ltd and Co-chair of the UK China Eco-cities & Green Building Group.

Inspired by the redevelopment of the Nine Elms site in Battersea, South West London, some key attributes of Elmside Garden Town include:

  • High quality public spaces.
  • A transit-oriented development which capitalises on the planned Northern Line extension and is designed to encourage walkability and cyclability, encouraged by the principle of mixed uses with pedestrian friendly streets.
  • Environmentally self-sufficient with the use of renewable energy sources with one-building smart grids, solar panels and wind turbines for electricity generation. Intelligent building design will be responsive to changing weather conditions with features such as brise soleil controlling the access of sunlight. An extensive rain-water harvesting system for watering the roof gardens, green spaces and supplying toilet flush tanks will also be adapted across the site. Buildings are carefully positioned with green roofs and double-glazed windows installed, ensuring minimal heat losses and maximise solar gain.
  • Opportunities for a diverse community with a range of housing and office forms of tenure that can be flexibly tailored to different requirements, as well as providing mixed-uses within buildings and neighbourhoods, and flexible community facilities that can promote a vibrant neighbourhood.
  • Community ownership and partnership: There will be a Community Company, which will then evolve into a Joint Venture Company (JVC) is to be set up to deliver and manage the Garden Town In-town. On top of protecting affordable properties from speculation and maintaining community infrastructure, the JVC also encourage local residents’ participation in organising community events. Returning to Howard’s principles, a strong infrastructure of community facilities will be distributed across the site including cafes, ethic groceries and population services, contributing to therobustness of those spaces as well as of the communities who will appropriate them as platforms of social interaction.

For more information about the student competition is available on the IFHP website. The TCPA would also like to thank all the student teams who participated in the competition for making it such a high quality and tough contest to judge. Congratulations are also extended to the other finalists, who can be viewed here.