Blackwall Yard

London

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The masterplan proposals at Blackwall Yard will bring an underused and culturally significant site back into public use, as a thriving sustainable neighbourhood for locals and Londoners to enjoy.

The site is rich in maritime history, and one of the last riverfront brownfield sites in the borough of Tower Hamlets.

Following an international competition run by developer Hadley Property Group, GHA collaborated with White Architekter and Panter Hudspith Architects on the masterplan and the four building plots, with landscape design provided by LDA.

The development will provide 898 homes of mixed tenures, including 35% affordable, with a vast range of shared amenities and facilities that will make it a sustainable ‘compact city’ in its own right.

Extending over 1.7 hectares, the masterplan is formed around a listed graving dock, around which the new public realm will act as a stage for community life – including a primary school, a cafe square, abundant play space and a riverside pub.

The dock itself invites visitors to engage with it directly to explore its history, as well as offering the unique opportunity for open water swimming with an exceptional outlook across the Thames to the O2.

The proposals enable a direct public connection between the Thames Path and East India DLR. This strategic link is one of a number of sustainable transport initiatives that will further enhance the accessibility of this spectacular piece of London riverside.

The buildings are carefully arranged around the key public routes which are designed to promote walking and cycling. This results in a varied mix of spaces, inviting exploration and creating a sense of intimacy and drama.

The architectural language of the scheme draws on its heritage as an industrial yard, with brickwork being the predominant material. This is juxtaposed with lightweight facades on the residents’ hub at the head of the dock, and the sail-like facades of the two towers which enjoy an astonishing outlook over the bend in the river.

GHA developed proposals for the northernmost plot, comprising more than half of the masterplan’s 898 homes within a podium and pair of towers of 32 and 39 storeys.

The towers accommodate homes for all tenures and are accessed via the hub and communal spaces within the podium. Designed as a continuation of the public realm, the inside/outside podium spaces also connect residents to the building entrances and provide an informal place to meet, work or enjoy a coffee with a river view.

The tower façades were developed in reference to the history of ship building at Blackwall Yard. In particular, the delicate and lightweight engineering of hand-made components arranged in repetitive patterns. These are found in shipbuilding and dockyard scaffolding as well as in sail-making.

This fine scale of façade detail demonstrates a similar economy of means, and gives a translucent surface to the towers, allowing light to permeate at the edges of the buildings and appear to dissolve them into the sky.

The facades serve a further purpose in sheltering the balconies from wind and shading the more exposed living areas at the corners of the plan. This reduces operational energy use while allowing them to remain more highly glazed and exploit the fantastic, far-reaching views.