Tuesday 23 February 2016

Return to Silvertown

London's Urban Sketchers had their second visit to Silvertown, a 62-acre (25 hectare) development site in the East End that we have been invited to record as it gradually turns into the reality of the planners' vision. In the heart of London's old Royal Dockyard, and throbbing in the heyday of the British Empire, Silvertown began its decline in the 1960s, and is now a huge, barren wasteland next to City Airport that promises 3,000 new homes and 20,000 new jobs in the years to come.

Nick Richards, Silo D, Silvertown

A few monumental buildings, such as Millennium Mills and Silo D, survive among the rubble, and will be restored. On our last visit, Millennium Mills was out of bounds because asbestos removal was underway. This time we were allowed inside, travelling up in the hoist, walking through its vast empty structure, and then out on to the 11th-floor roof overlooking the city.

Isabel Carmona, Millennium Mills (left) and Silo D (centre)

From the blustery rooftop, there were great view across towards the towers of the financial district, the Thames Barrier, the O2 Arena, City Airport, and the unspectacular conurbation of the East End stretching out to the horizon. In the wasteland below, the flashing lights of police cars and a burning vehicle were surrounded by a camera crew – one of many film units attracted to the gritty city feel of Silvertown.

Simon Privett, from the roof of Millennium Mills, looking west

Adebanji Alade, Millennium Dome from Millennium Mills

Simone Menken, looking west from the rooftop

James Hobbs, looking north from the roof of Millennium Mills

The giant mural on the side of Millennium Mills was created in 2012 by Shepard Fairey, the designer of the Barack Obama Hope poster.

Daniel Lloyd-Morgan, Attention Graffiti

Jo Dungey, Millennium Mills

The next 10 to 15 years will see this area change beyond recognition. There is a residential community close to the entrance to the site, but it is currently a quiet area – apart from the planes from the airport and construction traffic. Since our last visit in May last year (read about it here), there has been little outward change. The ground is cleared, and buildings rise in other sites around the periphery, but most of the action has still to arrive in Silvertown.

On the roof of Millennium Mills, from the left: Adebanji Alade, James Hobbs, Jo Dungey, Isabel Carmona, Simon Privett, Simone Menken, Nick Richards and Daniel Lloyd-Morgan.

The site is closed for visits now, but we're planning more in the future. Our thanks to the Silvertown Partnership for inviting us.