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Concept revealed for natural ice rinks on the River Thames

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 climate talks 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.”

frost fair closed frost pan open full frost fair

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