An ice rink floating on London's river Thames – the latest imaginative idea from NBBJ

by Kim Megson | 09 Dec 2015

International innovators and architects NBBJ have revealed their latest unusual design concept: a series of natural ice rinks on London’s River Thames.

The firm releases three outside-the-box concept designs every year to inform its commissioned physical projects.

The idea is to resurrect a city tradition dating back to the 17th century called the Frost Fair, which would see Londoners take to the frozen waters of the Thames in winter to enjoy ice skating, fairgrounds and sporting events.

In those days, the British winters were particularly severe, and the river was wider and slower meaning it would freeze more easily than today. At the last known Frost Fair in 1814, the ice was even thick enough to support an elephant, which was marched across the river alongside Blackfriars Bridge.

To naturally create ice now, NBBJ propose building several portable ‘Frost Flowers’ – retractable jetties that submerge below the water and unfurl into large flower-shaped discs. These would isolate a thin basin of water from the flow of the river and enable the water to freeze naturally. The ice platform would then be raised to the surface ready to host ice skating, exhibitions and even a public market.

Christian Coop, design director of NBBJ told CLAD: "The flowers would expand the popular South Bank into the Thames, creating attractive focal points in London’s favourite open space. The flowers would close during the summer months and ‘bloom’ during winter when the weather becomes cooler, their opening would be an event in itself, heralding the change of the seasons.

“The Thames has seen intense interest in 2015, with proposed bridges, floating villages and swimming pools,” he continued. “Our 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.

“This is part of our ongoing exploration of city life and how it can be adapted and improved in fresh new ways.”

Coop continued: “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.”

NBBJ added that the concept could be rolled out across a number of other city rivers around the world.

The studio, has previously proposed shadowless skyscrapers for London and a moving walkway in the capital’s underground rail network, has now turned its attention to the city’s river.

Back in the real world, NBBJ is currently working on a stadium for the 2022 Asia Games in Hangzhou.

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International innovators and architects NBBJ have revealed their latest unusual design concept: a series of natural ice rinks on London’s River Thames. The firm releases three outside-the-box concept designs every year to inform its commissioned physical projects. The idea is to resurrect a city tradition dating back to the 17th century called the Frost Fair, which would see Londoners take to the frozen waters of the Thames in winter to
NBBJ has released a series of innovative design concepts for London / NBBJ
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