For centuries until the early 1830s, when the original London Bridge limited the flow of the river and caused it to freeze over for large parts of the winter, the Frost Fair was a reoccurring citywide celebration. During that time the British winter was more severe than now, and the river was wider and slower, and impeded by the Old London Bridge. The festival would often involve a market and an impromptu public festival. The last-ever Frost Fair, lasting four days in February 1814, even featured an elephant that marched across the river alongside Blackfriars Bridge.
In celebration of the holiday season, we have taken inspiration from this once-great London event to return the winter spirit to the capital. Our concept for ‘Frost Flowers’, a series of natural ice rinks on the River Thames, would restore this once-regular event to the surface of the river.
The scheme proposes ‘flower petals’ that would unfurl into large circular discs. Submerged slightly below the water level, these pan-like objects would isolate a thin basin of water from the flow of the river. Each petal will have a cooling element which enhances the natural freezing process. This surface would become the site of a renewed Frost Fair bringing public ice-skating, markets and exhibitions to the people of London.
Created from a simple foldaway structure, the project could be easily installed and adapted to multiple locations throughout London and potentially many other city rivers around the world.
The Thames has seen intent interest in 2015 with proposed bridges, floating villages and swimming pools. This concept aims to restore public recreational activity to the surface of the river, in an area sheltered from commercial shipping lanes, with an annual event that would reconnect London to its heritage.
In a dense, modern city such as London the Thames provides a unique open vista where the history and origins of this great city can be viewed. A draw for Londoners and tourists alike, the South Bank has become a bustling leisure area with bars and markets lining the river. New, sustainable space for leisure activities is now desperately needed, and accordingly we looked to our heritage to find one possible solution.
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