8 Mar 2011

Spiller's Millenium Mills

The final project of my Landscape Architecture degree was left very open, I have been given the task of creating my own brief & choosing my own site. There were only a few criteron for the project; the site should be of an appropriate size to allow us to demonstrate analysis, concept & detailed design skills at a range of scales; there should be an over-arching theme that allows us to explore ket issues in contemporary Landscape Architecture, this may be sustainable design, urban regeneration, or many others.

I had some ideas of the kind of project I wanted to develop, but was without a site. I was looking for a post-industrial, derelict site. Inspiration for this was gained from a lecture we had a few weeks ago by Will Sandy (See post "What Is Landscape - Will Sandy"), in which he showed a video of the work being done in Detroit to regenerate all of the derelict land, the Michigan Central Station site caught my eye inparticular. The following video show that footage (Michigan Central Station appears at 9 minutes). The video is the part 1 of 3 parts, all of them are worth having a watch, it shows a lot of the derelict parts of Detroit, & interviews a lot of people who are actively trying to bring life back to the city, mainly by using art.

After researching & thinking for some time, I remembered a site that I have passed by many times & always been intrigued by. On the DLR in London, heading east out of the city, you travel through the London Docklands, which historically was home to a large industrious area. The Thames Barrier Park is often the destination when I travel out this far east, however I have always been more interested in the site on the other side of the DLR track. Spiller's Millenium Mills is a large derelict flour mill, the last remaining industrial building in the docklands.

Founded in 1901 by William Vernon & Sons, the actual mill was not built until 1905, becoming Europe's largest mill of the time. Shortly after this it was bought by Spiller's & named after their "Millenium Flour"; used to make the Millenium Flour & also dog food, which Spillers were famous for. In 1917 it was partially destroyed by an explosion in a neighbouring factory, it was then hugely extended several years later in 1933. The mill has now been derelict since 1984 when it was forced to shut down when the docks were closed, due to huge industrial decline. Since then the building has suffered a lot, with parts demolished, machines ripped out leaving huge open holes, and some vandalism. There are in fact two mills on site, one being Millenium Mills (the largest mainly white building) & a smaller mill attached to the east side of MM, Rank Hovis Mill. There is also still a large white silo which still remains on the site, Silo D.

In 2007 it was announced that Spiller's Millenium Mill will be converted into luxury flats at some point in the foreseeable future, as part of the Silvertown Quays development. I expect this will be less of a conversion & more of a demolition & then rebuild. This is a terrible shame, as although the building is in bad shape & is considered a dangerous site, it is the last remaining proof of London's huge industrial past. This is why I have chosen this site as my Semester II project. I want to revitalise the site & celebrate the past industrial history by using the buildings as the focal point of a new public park.

The site is considered "dangerous" due to the fragile state of the building, & so is completely surrounded by high security fences & there is a 24 hour security car which patrols the site looking out for trespassers. Trespassers are a common thing at Millenium Mills, as the building is considered by a group of urban explorers to be the greatest building to access & explore in the UK. This group are very adverse to the plans of redevelopment as well, agreeing with my sentiment that it should be honoured as a heritage site due to its history.

View west from the Royal Victoria Dock footbridge

The site faces the London Excel, a large exhibitions & conference centre

Rank Hovis building on the west side of the Millenium Mills

The map above just simply show the site (red line border) in context with some nearby well known places/attractions; the Excel Centre, London City airport, Thames Barrier & Thames Barrier Park.

The following video shows footage of some of the site, but mainly the inside of the building, created by someone who took the risk to access this amazing building.

1 comment:

adrianahuffle said...

I am a third year Graphic Design student at Central Saint Martins, and I came across you blog while digging around for potential new information on the Millenium Mills site. Millenium Mills and the grain mills of the Royal Victoria Docks have been something of an obsession of mine for the past year. I have been actively researching the mills and am currently working on a publication detailing their history, influence and future which is part of a self-initiated project for my degree. Since you are also working on a project on the mills (which sounds really exciting), and as an architecture student with a different perspective, I would love to hear more about your work. It would be wonderful to correspond further with you if you are interested. My email is adriadavidson @ hotmail.com (no spaces). You can also view some of my rambling at my blog at blog.adriadavidson.com. Hope to hear from you.