The Bermondsey Tea Set
Russian For Fish owes its existence to a disused public toilet in South London. In May 2006, Southwark Council ran the Bermondsey Ideas Competition as part of the London Biennale. Several sites were proposed for the contest; one of which, an abandoned public toilet accessed from an island on Grange Road, happened to be the same as Pereen d’Avoine’s Master’s project. The conditions of entry demanded that all schemes should come from an existing architectural practice – and so Russian For Fish was established, and won the competition. The proposal was an underground hammam that maintained the existing footprint of the site, drew inspiration from the area’s historic relationship to the Thames (the north bank near Tower Bridge was once a beach, and nearby Spa Road the location of an 18th-century pleasure garden), and explored the boundaries between public and private space. A network of subterranean chambers in glazed brick are topped with a series of domes and geometric structures that protrude above the pavement, letting in light and creating an abstract landscape when seen from street level. These individual elements coming together to form a whole, combined with the ceremonial nature of the hammam experience, gave the project its name: an architectural tea set, with the ground itself providing the tray.