Client: St William, Pump House Gallery, Wandsworth Council, Dallas - Pierce - Quintero
Location: Battersea Park, London
Status: Completed 2017
Engineers: Elliott Wood
Partners: Enable Leisure and Culture, Ground Construction Limited, Idverde, Chestnut Grove Academy, Naylor Drainage, Parker Tools, Pentre Group, Scaffolding Direct, SWR Group
Photography: Jamie James Films

Pump House Gallery


As part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe, Pump House Gallery commissioned  NEON and Elliott Wood engineers to deliver a temporary pavilion installed on the gallery forecourt. This structure was realized through working with arts specialist students from Chestnut Grove Academy in Balham, who’s inspiring and vivid minds were a key component in helping to conceive the pavilion design.

The aspiration was for the designers to make a site-specific response and explore the relationship between the Pump House, the park and the temporary pavilion. The pavilion has the potential to straddle these two conditions; the industrial qualities of the Pump House and the open spaces of Battersea Park. Adjacent to the park’s 3-hectare lake, the Grade II listed former Pump House tower was built in 1861 to house a coal-fired steam engine and pump to circulate water in the lake, water the park’s plants and drive artificial rockwork cascades situated on the north bank of the lake.

The aim with this project was to demonstrate how art and design together with the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) could deliver creative opportunities for young people in Wandsworth. The designers and engineers engaged with pupils from Chestnut Grove in the creation of the pavilion, exposing them to the realities of an architectural project and the different roles required to deliver them.

Design Description

The students of Chestnut Grove Academy took part in various design workshops; from site visits to discover the history and context of the site, the people and animals in it and the environment that forms it. The students explored the fundamentals of structures and the languages of architecture through a series of creative construction exercises. These workshops allowed the students to test and refine ideas for the pavilion that were at once complex and exciting as well as practical and realizable.

Students felt strongly that the Pavilion should be bold and contemporary but also reference the history of the Pump House. During the workshops a student commented on how the Pump House, an industrial building in its past use, would have given ‘life’ to the park, distributing water to its extremities, to the ponds, plants and animals that inhabit it. So the idea for paying homage to this distribution was born.

The pavilion celebrates the pipes that used to flow from the Pump House out into Battersea Park. The architectural form is created through a series of repeated distorting arches, designed to reference the classic brick arch, including the iconic front entrance of the Pump House. The students suggested a form that would lead people in and encourage a sense exploration. Different coloured pipes are used to create a hypnotic “op-art” effect, intended to lure the public into the pavilion. Inside the Pavilion spools for storing pipes are used to form seating and tables to further celebrate the use of everyday construction materials.

In recognition of the construction site surrounding Battersea Park, NEON and Elliott Wood have used simple day-to-day construction elements. The pavilion combines flexible pipes arranged in an organic form with a scaffold framework, which makes the forces and function of the structural elements visible. The pavilion has been realised using the state-of-the-art parametric modelling to push such simple materials to their limits.