Velocity joined a small group of cyclists and architects arranged by New London Architecture (NLA) to visit Waugh Thistleton Architects’ acclaimed Bushey Cemetery yesterday, including a walk- and talk-through of the design from Andrew Waugh himself.
The party – NLA chair Peter Murray and senior programme curator Lucie Murray; David Snaith, associate at Symmetrys; Tim O’Rourke, London studio director at Design Engine,; Mike Axon, founding director of Vectos; NLQ and Velocity editor David Taylor and Velocity publisher Toby Fox – rode up from NLA’s Store Street HQ to the site in north London.
Waugh explained the design inspirations behind his practice’s scheme, which was shortlisted in this year’s Stirling Prize.
The architects worked closely with the United Synagogue to deliver the project to enlarge the UK’s most significant Jewish cemetery, including the creation of two new prayer halls. Waugh said one of the key moves was to carefully create the prayer halls from solid rammed earth walls – with their low carbon footprint and practical shelf-life – lined in English Oak and connected via a cloistered timber colonnade. The design also includes "muted" materials such as Corten steel doors, opening out and sloping down onto a linear reed bed park featuring weirs and swails, with a clear processional route to the old graveyard.
Waugh said he had learned a great deal about the burial process and indeed the Jewish faith as part of the scheme design, which came about from an initial phone call in 2008 after the client had encountered planning problems associated with building in the Green Belt.
Cycle provision is on the limited side, with almost no call for it at such a venue, but Waugh advised that providing some Sheffield racks would aid the planning process. The visiting party used them, with two of the group even having the good sense to bring "coffee-stop"-type basic locks (one being the rather neat Hiplock Z-LOK cable tie lock).
Following the tour, the cyclists returned to central London on the 55km round trip, (largely) following a route devised by Andy Matthews, senior architect at Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt Architect. Our best wishes to Matthews – he couldn’t be on the trip as he was recovering from an operation on a broken clavicle.