PUP Architects has refurbished Surrey Docks Farm in London, reinstating a three-storey tower clad in black timber and topped by a golden pig weathervane.
Surrey Docks Farm is a charity located on the banks of the Thames, opposite Canary Wharf. PUP was appointed through competitive tender in 2014 and gained planning permission thereafter. Having reached a number of fund raising targets, construction began in April 2019 with Structure Workshop as structural engineers and John Perkins Projects as main contractor. The development, which was Section 106 and grant-funded, is a major step forward in improving the farm’s capacity, extending its already significant community outreach. Key new spaces include a teaching kitchen, meeting rooms, offices, a toilet block, multi-use River Room and a glazed ‘orangery’ opening up the building to the expansive river views.
A key ambition of the development was to augment the site’s civic character, opening up the site and buildings to take advantage of the riverside location and footfall. The farm had previously turned its back to the river, with the Thames Path fronted by tall bushes and the derelict tower. PUP’s response involved a mini-masterplan for this frontage. Rather than wholescale demolition and rebuilding, a series of careful interventions and additions were proposed. The reconfiguration of the landscaping serves to expose the existing buildings to the river, whilst creating outdoor leisure space and new ‘front door’ to the farm.
Established on its current site in 1986, Surrey Docks Farm is one of the only working city farms in the heart of London. Animals are reared on the 2.2 acre site which also houses an extensive range of community growing projects. These activities form the core of an educational program including local school groups, volunteers, classes and seasonal public events. The local area dominated by low-density housing developments from the 1970s and 1980s has sparse amenities and consequently the farm has an important role as a social and community centre. Its highly visible three-story tower takes on a civic role as a local landmark. This unique hybrid of agricultural, educational and civic functions has informed the character of the design at every scale.