London Thatch by James Kirk

The stark concrete exterior of many of London's postwar housing blocks could be made more attractive with thatching, proposes architecture student James Kirk (+ movie).

London Thatch by James Kirk

Kirk's University of Westminster graduation project presents an option for improving rather than demolishing the high-rise buildings by extending apartments outwards and creating a new thatched facade.

London Thatch by James Kirk

A phased development would minimise disruption to existing communities of residents, who Kirk says "don’t wish to move or be moved."

London Thatch by James Kirk

The plans also feature a school of thatching where residents could be trained in how to apply and repair the new exterior, using reeds sourced from constructed wetlands in the southeast of the city.

London Thatch by James Kirk

See more projects from this year's graduate shows »

The description below is from Kirk:


A film for my Masters in Architecture, University of Westminster in Design Studio 17.

A thatched approach for the redevelopment of London's postwar towers. London Thatch makes the case for alteration, extension and remodelling as opposed to demolition as an approach to reworking London’s ageing tower blocks. The approach that is proposed is specific to the site and context, though the attitude is proposed open enough to be repeated elsewhere.

London Thatch by James Kirk

London tower blocks are lively communities, with groups of residents who on the whole don’t wish to move or be moved. It is essential to remember this when designing for the renovation of the buildings that the residents live in. The proposals seek to achieve a maintained architecture which promotes a skilled method of construction and restores a skilled trade south London.

London Thatch by James Kirk

The project proposal is for a building that facilitates the modification of the existing towers, over time. The project allows for a phased redevelopment of the existing towers, providing on site temporary accommodation for families displaced by the construction process. The existing towers will be extended laterally, on a new structure, to increase the living space of the existing flats, and provide private outdoor amenity space for each, improving the quality and amount of space in each of the flats.

London Thatch by James Kirk

Alongside this, a school of Master Thatching is proposed, which will teach local residents a skilled, traditional construction method, the resources and students for which will be used to apply and maintain a new thatched facade for the existing towers. Local people who are in need of work will be able to gain skills, and maintain the existing built environment. The school will train students, maintain the buildings, and promote building using natural materials in the city.

London Thatch by James Kirk

Finally, a constructed wetland of reeds will provide the materials required for the new thatching industry in Bermondsey, as well as filtering and cleaning effluent from the towers before it is disposed of in the Thames, and creating a pleasant, diverse functional landscape around the estate, in the location of an underused outdoor amenity space.

Film by James Kirk
Music kindly lent with permission by Celer & Nicholas Szczepanik, from the album Here, For Now.