The largest manmade river project undertaken in Britain since the 19th century, the 11-kilometre Jubilee River was constructed in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a means of alleviating flooding around the towns of Maidenhead, Eton and Windsor. However, both as a piece of infrastructure and as an inhabitable environment, the Jubilee has proved only a partial success. Amelia Hunter’s project seeks to remedy those failings. She envisages a widening that would both improve the river’s hydrological performance and transform it into a navigable route connected into existing foot and cycle networks.
A series of territories of diverse character and use would also be established along it, ranging from a trout nursery and fishing shop dubbed the ‘Slough Fisheries’ to the ‘Island of the Bees’, a locally run honey farm and vicarage café. Elsewhere, the Dorney Wetlands provides an area for birdwatching while the ‘McDonald’s Meander’ – a stretch of the river which traces the twin arches of the burger chain’s signature M – is conceived as one of a number of corporate sponsorship schemes.
The surreal imagery of Hunter’s interventions draws both on the Victorian era’s culture of highly ornamented civic buildings and a more contemporary infrastructural language of super graphics and road markings. This blend finds most elaborate development in the ‘Myrkey Myrke Motel’, a vast, crescent-shaped flood defence located opposite Eton College’s playing fields.
Serving as a means of protecting the residents of nearby Datchet, it answers the Gothic architecture of the college chapel with an array of monumental buttresses culminating in flags.
However Hunter’s choice of imagery is nothing if not promiscuous. Memories of 19th-century theatres, Waterhouse’s Natural History Museum, Henley Regatta and the Colosseum all haunt this fantastical steampunk melange.
This is a beautifully depicted scheme - both highly skilled in its visual rendering, yet somehow enigmatic and elusive too. It is great to see a student have the commitment to tackle such a large-scale piece of urban-landscape. And I particularly enjoyed the compositional exuberance of the elevation drawing; such a lost art in today’s world of 3D rendering.