The Arches Project, reclaiming abandoned spaces in London

Boano Prišmontas,

Boano Prišmontas,



The London-based architectural firm, founded by Tomaso Boano and Jonas Prišmontas together with Meanwhile Space CIC, the pioneering social enterprise at the forefront of bringing temporarily redundant space into productive use worked in partnership with the GLA, Lambeth Council and Network Rail (now Arch Company) to deliver a design-led strategy aiming to provide business incubation opportunities.

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The Arches Project, reclaiming abandoned spaces in London Abandoned places are rife in our cities, with shifts in demographics and investments causing socioeconomic change. Some buildings, urban areas and open spaces end up in a kind of limbo, falling into decline when they are no longer used for their original purpose and lacking programmes and projects for reuse. This transition period can last for a short time or longer but in the meantime, these places can be put to use for temporary activities and projects, which can provide new urban regeneration strategies
Railway infrastructure plays a very important part in this; just take the impressive spaces behind Milan Central Station, for example, one of the most popular destinations during the annual Furniture Fair.
The Arches Project by the London-based architectural firm Boano Prišmontas founded by Tomaso Boano and Jonas Prišmontas and Meanwhile Space is one of these kinds of projects. Since 2017, Boano Prismontas and Meanwhile Space have worked in partnership with the GLA, Lambeth Council and Network Rail (now Arch Company) to deliver a design-led strategy that aims to regenerate disused spaces across London and provide business incubation opportunities.
Boano Prišmontas designed a digitally fabricated structural system which adopts dry-joint techniques to infill and make use of a wide range of abandoned pocket spaces, such as railway arches, undercrofts and multi-storey car parks, just to mention some of the non-places in Marc Augé-style. The aim of this project - stemming from a design competition launched by Meanwhile Space in 2017 - is to create a kit of parts that can be easily assembled and eventually redeployed. The project's value lies in its nomadic, temporary and sustainable approach. Boano Prišmontas and Meanwhile Space seek to work in synergy with developers and councils for short and mid-term urban regeneration strategies that support the quick creation of affordable workspace for local businesses and start-ups.
The design proposed by Boano Prismontas was chosen because it is freestanding, provides a secure space inside the area to revive, and is self-buildable, repeatable and cost-effective. The structural system consists of a plug-in space, a room-within-a-room, using modular CNC-cut plywood units that are repeated and serve to support the beams as well as the external polycarbonate cladding. The system can cover a maximum span of 7.2m. The structure is entirely made of certified birch plywood sheets. A careful study and prototyping phase was adopted and each structural piece is also geometrically efficient when cut with a CNC machine, keeping material wastage to a bare minimum. Boano Prišmontas have created several design pieces that make use of the offcuts and the plywood dust resulting from the CNC process is also used as a material substrate to create boards of bio-plastic material (mycelium).

The Arches Project is also easy to dismantle and reconstruct elsewhere making it really flexible and useable on a large scale. At Loughborough Junction, London, the abandoned industrial architecture of the railway arches have been turned into a real creative hub. The work of Boano Prišmontas and Meanwhile Space has fostered the creation of new spaces for urban life, which host all kinds of retail activities and productive spaces such as studios, laboratories, workshops, mechanics, shops, microbreweries, and coworking spaces to name just a few. 
The project is also a candidate in the Best Applied Projects category for Archdaily’s Building of the Year Award.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Boano Prišmontas
Location: Loughborough Junction, London, UK
Year: 2019
Images: Courtesy of Boano Prišmontas