Stanton Williams tackles public responsibilities and the private domain at a Thames-side housing development


Alan Stanton

Hufton & Crow

Located on the north bank of the Thames between Vauxhall Bridge and Tate Britain, Riverwalk is a sinuously curved apartment building whose form responds to the river’s meandering path, to its prominent situation and visibility from considerable distances, and to architect Stanton Williams’ desire to maximise the daylight and views available to residents.

The architects were concerned that the building should read as architecture, and not ‘mere landscape’, and made extensive studies of the ways that concave and convex curves “embrace and capture space, or move out into it”, and blend or interlock as one moves around the building, says architect Alan Stanton. “As a residential block, this all happens on the elevational crust, that zone between inside and outside”, he says. “It is wall architecture, but addresses the problem of how to do architecture in an open field with only subtle contextual linkages”.


“The architectural concept takes its inspiration from the sinuous curves of the river as it winds past the site”, says architect Stanton Williams. “The building’s gentle, interlocking form responds to this movement and opens up the residential apartments to the panoramic river views”.

The project provides 116 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments for market sale; related affordable housing is located in a nearby separate residential project. It sits within a newly landscaped public green space – Riverside Walk Gardens – and its height and massing were largely determined by protected views, and rights to light of neighbouring properties.

The building is articulated as two blocks above a shared ground-floor podium and three storeys of underground plant and parking. The 17-storey element to the west faces a slightly taller building across the north end of Vauxhall Bridge, and the City of Westminster’s planners were keen that the new and existing buildings should read as a ‘gateway’ to the borough. The shorter, seven-storey element, with its cascading terraces, relates to Riverside Walk Gardens and mediates between the taller block and the public green space. The separation of the two blocks retains a visual link between the river and Ponsonby Terrace to the north.

The facades are composed of distinct ‘strata’, with curved horizontal bands of limestone at each floor level alternating with bronze coloured metal and glass bands that form windows and balconies. Set-backs on the upper floors give larger terraces to the penthouses, and architectural definition to the roofscape.

These roofs and terraces, along with the balconies and a landscaped garden at podium level, are extensively planted to improve the green footprint of the site. Riverside Walk Gardens forms part of a sequence of public green spaces along this side of the river, and the project includes improved landscaping, the widening of the walkway alongside the river, and specially commissioned public art – two installations by Pablo Reinoso at the riverside walkway level, and a sculpture by Peter Randall-Page at the top of new steps to Vauxhall Bridge, where a curved terrace with a stone bench provides a new vantage point overlooking the water.

Viewpoint – Alan Stanton:

“When we were appointed to design Riverwalk it was our first high-end residential building, but the real attraction was the chance to make a contribution to the river. For centuries the Thames was London’s great boulevard, but when I was young the city had turned its back on the river. In recent decades it has been rediscovered but – with a few exceptions – much of the development has been lamentable. And question marks remain over the quality of what’s going up at the moment around Vauxhall, across the river from our site.

Along the north bank there are very few development sites, so this was a rare opportunity. The site was only created in the 1970s when shipbreaking yards were cleared and the embankment consolidated. The road curves back from the river to leave a wedge of space, which became Riverside Walk Gardens. Behind, on Millbank, there are white stucco houses built in the nineteenth-century and the 1980s. Westminster’s planning officers wanted a distinctive building, and it seemed inappropriate to take that background onto the river. As a small park, our site could take a sculptural building.

Its form is not gratuitous, however. The building sits within an envelope defined by rights of light, and local and metropolitan views, which capped its height. There are key views from the Golden Jubilee pedestrian bridge at Embankment, for example, and we produced a movie to show that our building, way downriver, would not get tangled up with the finials of the Palace of Westminster in the foreground.

The river itself curves about a lot – at our site it’s almost north-south – and from Riverwalk you can see up to the National Theatre in one direction, and to Battersea in another. A curved, sculptural form can relate to the river and those large-scale spaces, but raises the question of how it meets the ground and connects with its immediate context. Although this is a private apartment building, we felt a responsibility to provide a building that could be enjoyed by a wider public, so it is designed to give changing views as people walk around. Its massing as two blocks meets the planners’ requirement to keep a spatial link between the open space of the river and the end of Ponsonby Terrace to the north. We were happy about that because it breathes air into the mass of the building.

Slab blocks are always difficult – they can make long, dead facades – but the language of curves adds interest by expanding and compressing the space between the two halves of the building. Landscaping was also really important, and we’ve widened the river walk and put a cafe in the building.

The initial design requirement was for shell and core, plus foyers. Although we did do interior layouts, our client brought in separate designers, as tends to happen in this market. We were then responsible for the delivery of the whole building, including interiors. We learned a lot from the client; in high-end residential, as with commercial buildings, much of the perceived value lies in the promenade of approach and entry – the entrance, lobby, lifts and stairs.


And of course the flats have to be pretty good. Our conversations with the agents were similar to those we have when designing exhibitions, about movement through spaces, drawn by light. The principles should apply to all housing, but they are tightly defined requirements where flats are very expensive and selling them is a highly tuned art.

In a curved residential building, an interiors plan is going to be orthogonal, just to work with furniture, but we put the major living spaces in the curved ‘nose cones’. When you enter, the space seems to expand outwards, capturing this enormous view and bringing it into the heart of the building.”

Additional Images

Download Drawings


Stanton Williams
Structural engineers
Arup, WSP
Services engineers
Hilson Moran, Hoare Lea
Sir Robert McAlpine
Ronson Capital Partners with Derwent London