Rathbone Market

Delivering an exemplar of water sensitive urban design and green infrastructure

Rathbone Market is a city oasis established around a new market place and a dedicated approach to water sensitive urban design. 

The project was master-planned in 2008 and delivered in three phases to establish a new sustainable and mixed-use community at Rathbone Market as part of the Canning Town & Custom House Regeneration Area. 


The development provides mixed tenure housing and amenity, two public squares, retail space, purpose-built facilities for market traders and a new public library and community centre. The multi-level roofscape uses lower and mid-level roofs for recreation and play with higher level roofs dedicated to productive gardens, water harvesting and biodiversity.

Phases 1&2, Vermillion and Aurelia were jointly recognised with a Sustainable Water Industries Group (SWIG) Award for Urban Greening in 2015. 

Phase 3, Lumire received recognition at the Sunday Times British Home Awards where it was awarded Development of the Year.

 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)

Water sensitive design principles were embedded in the landscape design from the outset.


The processes of sustainable water management are celebrated in a series of dynamic features. Technical innovations include a double-sided green wall and acoustic barrier, irrigated by rainwater. A podium-level pond harvests rainwater from the surrounding roofs and recirculates this to create a playful rill and naturally filter the water. 

On phases 2 and 3 we used innovative blue roof technology and rain gardens, making use of the extensive roof area for stormwater attenuation and capturing stormwater at source which in turn produced economies for the contractor and relieved pressure on congested underground services in the public realm.

 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)

Two bespoke lighting columns illuminate the marketplace at night casting a dappled lighting effect through the canopies of the mature London Plane trees. 


The market place enjoys a warm and textured surface formed in large panels of slim clay bricks and granite, defining the layout for market stalls. Maud Street is now a pedestrian route laid in contrasting darker clay tones, continuing a finely grained ground surface which is framed by polished recycled glass blocks that form the façade of the community hub and new underpass, which is now filled with light and passes through the sunken garden of Phoenix Place. 

 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)

Lumire, the final phase, rises up around a courtyard garden framed by rain gardens. 


These are fed from the roofs above, coming to life during rainfall. Residents pass through the courtyard garden to access each core, making the garden part of their everyday experience. The water rill masks the city noise and a playground hugs the wall partially enveloped in climbers to create a garden hideaway for children to play within.