NBBJ unveils concept for natural ice rinks on the River Thames

NBBJ has today released a concept for ‘Frost Flowers’, a series of natural ice rinks on the River Thames that would restore a once-regular event to the surface of the river.

For centuries until the early 1830s, when the original London Bridge limited the flow of the river and caused it to freeze over for large parts of the winter, the Frost Fair was a reoccurring citywide celebration. In celebration of the holiday season, and with an eye toward the current climate talks underway in Paris, London-based architecture practice NBBJ has taken inspiration from this once great London event to return the winter spirit to the capital.

The scheme proposes retractable jetties that would unfurl into large circular discs. Submerged slightly below the water level, these pan-like objects would isolate a thin basin of water from the flow of the river and enable the water to naturally freeze. This surface would become the site of a renewed Frost Fair bringing public ice-skating, markets and exhibitions to the people of London.

The Thames has seen intent interest in 2015 with proposed bridges, floating villages and swimming pools. This concept aims to restore public recreational activity to the surface of the river, in an area sheltered from commercial shipping lanes, with an annual event that would reconnect London to its heritage.

Created from a simple foldaway structure, the project could be easily installed and adapted to multiple locations throughout London and potentially many other city rivers around the world.

The Frost Flowers concept forms part of an ongoing exploration by NBBJ into city life and how it can be improved, adapted and potentially evolve. Previous concepts have included a shadowless skyscraper and the transformation of the London Underground into electronic walkways; the Frost Flowers thus complete a three-part investigation into the most characteristic aspects of London: skyline, subway and river.

Christian Coop, Design Director of NBBJ, explained why the River Thames provides such an interesting and important resource for the city:

‘In a dense, modern city such as London the Thames provides a unique open vista where the history and origins of this great city can be viewed. A draw for Londoners and tourists alike, the South Bank has become a bustling leisure area with bars and markets lining the river. New space is now desperately needed, and accordingly we looked to our heritage to find one possible solution.’

Concept designs form a core part of the work of NBBJ each year and aim to inform the physical projects of the practice. Releasing three innovative concepts each year, the studio explores how we live in our cities and identify areas for potential growth and innovation. Ongoing projects under construction include a major new hospital in Liverpool, the new US headquarters for Amazon and a stadium for the 2022 Asia Games in Hangzhou.