What is A Room for London?
High up on the roof of Queen Elizabeth Hall, a riverboat appears to have come to rest...
A Room for London is a one-bedroom installation, available to rent by the public for night-long stays. During the year it has also created an online programme of writing, art and music.
There can be few places to stay a night in London quite as unusual, poetic and life-enhancing as A Room for London: a 'boat' perched, as if by retreating floodwaters, on the very edge of the Queen Elizabeth hall at the Southbank Centre.
The one-bedroom installation was built by Living Architecture and designed by David Kohn Architects in collaboration with the artist Fiona Banner. It provides guests with a place of refuge and reflection amidst the flow of traffic at this iconic location in the capital. The lower and upper decks offer extraordinary views, by day and night, of a London panorama that stretches from Big Ben to St Paul's cathedral.
An intimate space in a cultural quarter with a sweeping view of one of the world's great cities, A Room for London is more than a hotel room: it's an observatory, a retreat and a studio, whose design was inspired by the Roi des Belges, the boat that Joseph Conrad navigated up the River Congo in the late nineteenth century before writing Heart of Darkness. There is a deck, a crow's nest and a cabinet of visual curios - and a centerpiece bed which slides on rails to make the most of the views over London. Before departure, guests are invited to fill in a logbook in the 'bridge' of the boat, detailing what they have experienced during their stay, out of the window as much as within themselves. An octagonal library with a carefully curated selection of books and twin desks looking out across the river enables visitors to use the Room as a remarkable studio space.
To make use of this opportunity for imaginative reflection, a range of writers, musicians and artists have been invited to stay in A Room for London, using their time there to create new works or performances. Each month a different writer has been checking into the Room and spending several days writing a new work, a reading of which was recorded in the octagonal library and broadcast as one of twelve installments of A London Address. A different musician has stayed in the space every month, ending their residency with a Sounds from a Room live performance streamed to international audiences over the web. And at different moments through the year, various artists spent time in the space with the simple instruction that they should use the opportunity to imagine something new that can be shared - in an echo of the golden age of nautical broadcasting - by way of the digital space.
Meanwhile, Ideas for London, a competition in association with the Evening Standard, looked to discover Londoners’ most remarkable ideas for their city. By proposing ideas, citizens of the capital won nights in A Room for London. A number of creative and influential people then came on board to nurture the ideas, one to one and over dinner, before the winner ‘slept on it’.
This is contemporary architecture at its most playful, beguiling and thought-provoking.