Monday, July 1, 2013

Prince's Tower, Rotherhithe Street


A friend visited over the weekend.  An Egyptologist, he wanted to revisit the so-called Cleopatra's Needle (an ancient Egyptian obelisk on Embankment, on the Westminster side of Blackfriars bridge, that predates Cleopatra by several centuries) to check how much the inscriptions have deteriorated recently.  We walked there  from the end of Greenland Dock along the Thames Path.  I haven't done that walk since last year, and it was great to see some of the familiar sights again.  I took a lot of photographs to form the basis of some future posts.

We passed one of my favourite modern buildings in Rotherhithe, just on the outskirts of Rotherhithe village, behind The Ship pub: the Thames-facing Princes Tower (which at some point seems to have been re-named Riverside Apartments).  Its address is 97 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 4NF and it sits on the site of the old Prince's Wharf and Prince's Stairs. at the start of Elephant Lane.

The award-winning eight storey building has a distinct air of Bauhaus and Modernism about it, with a large dose of Art Deco thrown in; the echo of a brave new world of architectural ideas.  Neatly juxtaposed against the nearby 1930s The Ship, which represents a very different architectural tradition, and the solidly functional nineteenth century buildings of the old wharves, it stands out like a beacon of innovation. It was designed by Troughton McAslan (now no longer operating) and built by Tim Brennan Architects, opening in 1990.  In spite of being unique in Rotherhithe, with nothing even remotely equivalent to compare with it, it doesn't clash with its surroundings.  Built on a steel frame, the design emphasizes curves and linearity, light and and space.  The apartments are light-filled with open plan arrangements, and the views over the Thames through the bow windows are almost panoramic.

In the 1850s Prince's Wharf was the timber-built base of a barge and boat builder, but by 1873 the entire Thames frontage at this point was made up of a series of wharves of varying sizes.  By 1937 Prince's Wharf was a six-storey brick-built wharf next to Gordon's Wharf and linked to it by walkways.  Both had been operated as granaries by Gillman and Spencer, which specialized in landing and bagging loose cereals and the manufacture of flaked maize and brewers' preservatives, but when the company was purchased by Pauls Malt Ltd in 1902 they also manufactured a product called Kositos, an animal feed.

Update: Quite coincidentally, I was trawling through the planning proposals in Southwark News today (3rd July, only 2 days after my original post) and I noticed that there was a planning application (ref 13/AP/1454) to add additional accommodation to Flat 6 Princes Tower.  Without knowing where the flat is in the general scheme of things, it's difficult to form an opinion, but it does seem a shame that the building isn't Grade 2 listed, so that this sort of application has to go through more rigourous checks.

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