Abjection in art challenges the conventional order of society.
It confronts and transgresses social prohibitions and taboos.
Georges Bataille's notion of 'Base Materialism' rejects the imposition of hierarchy to objects . Base matter, such as the waste product of the human body, are often despised as a result of society's inability to assimilate them. Bataille's theory 'The Big Toe' posits that, 'whatever the role played in the erection by his foot, man who has a head raised to the heavens, see the big toe as spit'. The big toe is brought down to the very base level, due to the high minded idealism of people.

Thamesmead today, is the big toe of London.

But instead of chasing for the ideal, the project embrace Thamesmead as a natural product of its social and political history. Peabody is planning a regeneration for Thamesmead, and one could argue that the regeneration should be perceived as a pursuit of alchemy. Bringing alchemy to Thamesmead is not to pursue the development of an ideal town, but to put the emphasis on the potential of its resources.

Today, the town of Thamesmead is far from its original idealised vision, as public perception has relegated it as the dumping ground of London. The city crown of Thamesmead celebrates the base, and recognises its potential. Through an act of alchemy, it turns Thamesmead into a unique juxtaposition of base and noble.

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Scene of Protest

The Crossness sewage treatment plant in Thamesmead, literally a dumping ground serves 2 million people, from South West London to Thamesmead. This scene of protest, where the pipelines were severed from the entire city, put London into a state of chaos. This highlights the importance of this much-avoided infrastructure in the making of a city.


There are three types of columns in the building. People enter the space through a field of Ventilation Columns, progress onto the condenser boiler columns, and finally to the dense heated columns. Public buildings emerge from these fields, forming a cityscape within the space.

Hall of Fire

The heated columns have thermal pipes spiralling up it. The field of heated columns forms the Hall of Fire. The varying densities of the pipes influence the thermal comfort of the building while creating an aesthetic language.

Hall of Water

The condenser boiler columns have heated pipes inside the column shafts, which heat and store the treated water from the filtration machine. The field of condenser boiler columns forms the Hall of Water, a space of abundance of gold and light.

Hall of Air

The ventilation columns have denser pipes at the top that draw out the pungent air from the sewage level through the natural stack effect. The Hall of Air is derived from the smell of the site and the direction of the wind. The air flows through the column shafts that rise through the top of the building and is filtered before release.


Alchemy is a celebration of the base as much as the noble. The building is formed of the sewage treatment level, the machinery level and the crown. The sludge from the primary settlement tank is collected to produce biogas, which is then burnt to create energy. This combustion heats up pipes that spiral up the columns, heating up the building. While visitors experience the world of gold, they also have to confront revulsion. Filtration machines protrude from the floor, giving the people an up close view of its processes, while the glass floor allows them to see the sewage tanks from above.


The field of columns outline the grid of sewage tanks, while the circular skylights take on their rounded perimeters, a visual connection is made to the level below. This photograph of a model, depicts a sense of majesty and sanctity through the grand scale of the columns and gold domes.


The grand hall is one of the buildings amidst the field of columns. Just as a chapel has paintings that glorify the heavens, the dome of the grand hall is adorned by the abstract pattern of dried human excrement. This, is alchemy of its aesthetic.


The city crown, rising from the edge of Thamesmead, gives a new silhouette to the town. It is dissociated from the materialism of a profane life, and rather, it is a devotion to beauty.


Heaven and hell coexist. The beauty of the glorious and abject are equal.