The Tate and Lyle sugar factory sits prominently in a part of London caught between the active architectural erasure of its industrial past and the prospective but stagnated development of commercial housing. With the majority of London’s large-scale industries leaving the city, my project begins as the last bags of processed sugar roll through the production line, and the site is left to dereliction in the absence of a clear investment strategy for the historic site.
Rather than attempt to negotiate the fragmented pasts and speculative futures of the sugar factory, my project argues for an empirical response to the factory ‘as found’. A series of small interventions transforms the site over time. In some cases, structures that are otherwise mundane encasements are claimed and reprogrammed to reveal, exaggerate, and celebrate fantastical and sublime architectural spaces that emerge when the machines are switched off. In other cases, a series of inversions utilize the facades of the crumbling ruins, providing the shuttering and formwork for casting, creating new spaces in the voids of the sugar factory. Many of these decisions are coincidental: an infrastructural corridor next to an attractive façade, for example, can act as an inhabited retention structure.
This process of removal and addition retains the density of the site while allowing incremental programmatic transformation to occur. In this way, a multiplicity of uses is possible in what was once a single production line. New insertions containing shared facilities act as the infrastructural arteries for an emerging micro-city within the ruins of the sugar factory. The new forms will continue the lineage of Industrial architecture typified by the constant reconfiguration required to accommodate shifting technologies, expansion, or shrinkage. As such, they will be dynamic rather than fixed forms. Rather than being objects within a landscape, they should read as landscape. The ground plane, as a crucial element of this landscape, is opened to public use as a wild and uncontrolled ruin, which helps to conjure up critiques of the past and its potential futures by gesturing towards these as temporal frames.