Soar Island - International Open Ideas Competition


This architectural competition focuses on one site within Waterside-a unique piece of land which is expected to be brought forward in one of the first phases of Waterside development. Soar Island is, as the name suggests, an island within the River Soar and Grand Union Canal. Rally Park-an area of recently improved open space sits immediately to the west across the water. Connected with a network of bridges-both vehicle and footbridges, the site is just 10 minutes' walk from the city centre. At 2.15 acres (0.87 ha) the site is currently a mixture of industrial works, open space and woodland, but Leicester City Council believe it offers unrealised potential in the form of a mixed-use (housing, commercial, community or leisure) that includes high quality open space and public realm and, enables public access to the island. It requires a special approach with a design that enhances the contribution Soar Island makes to the biodiversity of the area. Soar Island is at one of the most interesting parts of the river. It needs to include a use which creates an attractive destination that draws people to it, where they can enjoy being by the river. It is a distinctive and highly visible site and is well connected.


Agriculture has recently seen a boost from “local sourcing” in food production. Communities involved in this shift are not seeking self-sufficiency but a gradual reduction on their dependency on non-local sources of supply. This stimulates peri-urban organic agriculture but it could also be an opportunity to look differently at our cities. Taking a fresh look at Soar Island could be a unique opportunity for the city to reclaim it and turn it into a new destination, both locally and globally.

The project aims at proposing a new Community Farming Hub on the island.


The Hub will be a state-of-the-art facility acting as a community centre and a public space for Leicester. It will consist of 3 elements: the Farm, Market Hall and Market Square. The Farm will be organized around ground and hydroponic cultures, indoor or outdoor. The indoor Farm will be protected by a translucent tensile acting as a greenhouse also covering an incubator kitchen, a café, a recycling centre and a seed laboratory. It is proposed to use upgraded shipping containers as a framework for implementing this spaces.


Circulations around the containers will take place on a timber deck off the natural ground of the island. In the same way, Market Hall will be sheltered under a ventilated translucent tensile. A retail space, a library and a juice bar will be located within that space with their own direct accesses from the outside too. The central space will be multifunctional and versatile. The third node, Market Square, will be at the crossroad of the Farm, Market Hall and Soar Lane. It will be flanked by a visitor centre which will host exhibitions and educational workshops. Market Square will host farmers markets and other seasonal events.


The Hub will function in semi-autonomy and rely as much as possible on the power generated by its 3 wind turbines. The recycling centre will aim at turning the island into a zero waste island by composting all the by-products of the farm.

The construction of the Hub aims at having a minimal impact on the island by using light weight materials such as a timber deck, up-cycled shipping containers and a tensile roof. The tensile geometry will give a clear new identity to the island, especially when glowing at night like an organism.    
The Hub will be located on the higher side of the island. It will physically and visually connect to the cycle path and will have a bicycle workshop just off the path. Vehicle access will be limited to the functioning of the Community Hub. The current configuration of the cycle path will be mostly kept in order to preserve as much as possible the biodiversity of the place and the also the integrity of the banks.