Southwark Gateway Needle

This project was awarded Award in the Craftsmanship category at the Natural Stone Awards 2000.

The official guide said, 'The project was to provide a new public space and a tourist information centre, creating a Gateway to Southwark. The tourist information centre's architecture becomes appropriately emblematic of how urban regeneration can give an area a thriving identity, attracting other commercial and cultural ventures.

The project is focussed on the respossession of public space from bureaucracy, blight and uncontrolled traffic engineering. The improvements were achieved after a careful analysis of the site, including 24-hour filming, public consultation and the subsequent decision to create a new public space in the front of London Bridge and the River Thames.

The inclined, 16m london Portland stone needle is an important element in creating a sense of place and has rapidly become a landmark for the area, and meriting a mention and a gaze on London sightseeing tours.

The Needle's structure and craftsmanship are achievements in themselves. Made from 2 differently shaped blocks that taper from 1500mmx1200mm at the base to 60mmx40mm at the tip, each block was toggle jointed and hand finished.

The blocks of Portland stone were hand set in a lime mortar bed. The structural engineer had to calculate the forces in each joint in order to sixe the internal tensioning system, which consists of up to six stainless steel rods allowing the 19.5 ° lean.

The whole space is reoriented by the new stairs from the pedestrian ramp on to the space re-paved with Yorkstone. Railings were removed and the perimeter protected by carved granite trief kerbs. Bedded pebbles act as tacktile pedestrian markings.

Two large granite blocks from the John Rennie bridge (circa 18260) were discovered whilse digging the foundations for the needle. They have been incorporated within the space as seats, raised on stainless sleet brackets and underlit by LED strips.'

The judges commented,

'The craftsmanship and detailing needed to ensure that this stone needle exhibited the precision to make such a prominent feature in the streetscape impressed the judges enormously. Such simplicity is difficult to achieve.'

Southwark Needle using Portland Stone