Soar Island

The new Soar Island creates a community with a distinct identity. Our proposal builds on the specific sense of place on this special island, set apart from, yet linked physically and historically with the city.

This competition winning vision sees Soar Island become Fayre Isle – Leicester’s new home for local festivals, craft enterprise and low-impact living. A thriving neighbourhood that enhances habitats for flora, fauna and people alike, Fayre Isle provides shared community spaces, wildlife reserves, spectacular waterside viewing points and new homes that won’t cost the earth.

Client: Leicester City Council and RIBA Competitions
Construction Value: undisclosed
Competition: 2015
Location: Leicester

2015 RIBA & Leicester City Council competition (first prize)
Fair living and working

Fayre Isle makes low-impact living easy and affordable. By offering custom build opportunities, mixed tenure family housing and support for new local businesses, this industrious new island will contribute to the city’s vitality and nurture its future success stories.


The eastern edge of the island forms an active, urban frontage facing the city centre. Self-build live-work units animate the towpath and the cyclists’ caravanserai offers repairs, frame-building and overnight stays for two-wheeled travellers on the Sustrans routes.

Fair on the environment

The island offers a unique setting for wildlife and humans to coexist. Existing water and woodland habitats are enriched through biodiverse landscaping and land remediation by willows and wildflowers. The careful arrangement of uses ensures that quieter natural reserves remain undisturbed by social spaces.


The tranquil western bank becomes a place for swimming, strolling and retreat. At the island’s centre, the former concrete works proudly represents Leicester’s industrial heritage, whilst offering a protected home to birds and bats.

Fair festivals

As Fayre Isle, Soar Island will play host to a growing calendar of local events. Seasonal visitors and locals alike will join to celebrate Leicester’s cultural and historic richness. The community-built market hall facilitates urban food production during the summer and winter food festivals, while its raised gallery offers superb views across the water.

The island’s very own Festival of Resilience spreads the neighbourhood’s ethos of fairness by inviting Leicester for fresh food and free music by the river.

“SWA’s ideas stood out from the other entries because their proposal was diverse and rich, integrating heritage, landscape, ecology, and architecture”

Glenn Howells, Chair of the judging panel