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Tonkin Liu longlisted to redesign Old Street Roundabout


We are thrilled to reveal that we have been selected as one of 39 practices longlisted to design the £1 million transformation of Old Street Roundabout.

The competition, run by Islington Council, called for ‘exciting, bold and iconic’ proposals for a new gateway structure or public artwork reflecting the area’s identity as a hub for digital innovation. 

Tonkin Liu's response, named Old Street New Tree, is a technically innovative gateway artwork that heralds the future of Old Street. Learning from nature, the ultra-lightweight biomimetic structure achieves strength through its organic geometry. 

Our proposal de-clutters the space and greens the fixed elements. Two vent shafts are retained and clad with living green walls, as is the clerestory roof, which has sufficient structural capacity to be transformed into a green roof enjoyed by views from above.

Prioritising people over cars, Old Street New Tree replaces the existing overbearing arches to create an open, sunny, human-scaled public green space, shared by workers, residents, students, visitors, at different rhythms and times of the day. 

The dynamic emblem transforms into an interactive digital light sculpture at night, marking the confluence of routes and cultures from Hackney, Islington, and the City of London. 

Collaboration with energy consultants Integration and lighting designers Seam will ensure that the iconic gateway is an exemplar in sustainability and smart technology. Thin-film photovoltaics on the ETFE canopy roof will provide power for lighting and low-level charging points for the public. Media glazing along the perimeter of the clerestory roof showcases local events, people, and revenue-generating advertising, whilst letting day-light and air into the station concourse below. Addressable LED strings on the artwork and green roof create an interactive digital meadow, whereby local social media content is transformed into a colourful lighting spectacle “bloom” in the canopy of Old Street New Tree

Old Street New Tree is a product of advanced contemporary digital design, engineering, and fabrication techniques including generative scripting and CNC cutting. It will be fabricated from thin perforated steel sheets, laser-cut and welded to form a geometrically optimised structure. This innovative technique, Shell Lace Structure, uses minimal material mass to achieve maximum structural span. Pioneered by Tonkin Liu in collaboration with world-leading engineers at Arup, the invention has developed through nine years of research and development, winning the RIBA Research Grant and a number of prestigious design commissions, including Solar GateTower of Light and Oval Court.

Other longlisted practices include Zaha Hadid Architects, AHMM, Coffey Architects and Hawkins\Brown, chosen from more than 120 registrations of interest. See the longlist here.

The exhibition will be open weekdays between 12th February and 2nd March 2018, from 12noon to 6pm at 2 – 4 Old Street Yard, 1st Floor, Building 3, London EC1Y 8AF.

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