On Friday 14 June, GHA once again opened the doors of its London studio as part of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) Fitzrovia Studio Lates evening.
Director Will Poole said “The LFA Studio Lates is always a great event and this year we were delighted to welcome over 200 visitors in to GHA. It was excellent to meet so many people who were interested in our work and approach – thank you to all those that visited us. The LFA is an excellent opportunity for the architectural community to come together and to engage with the wider design and construction communities, as well as the general public.”
In addition to a Graduate Zone staffed by junior members of the team that aimed to engage with architectural students, visitors had the opportunity to discover a multi-media exhibition that showcased projects through a traditional display, models and VR technology.
This year’s exhibition, entitled “Stitching the city”, explored the LFA theme of “Boundaries” by drawing on GHA’s CLEAN design principles, in particular A for “Appropriateness” of building designs in line with their urban surroundings. Every project needs to be specific and respond positively to what is important for the location, culture, economy, climate and most importantly the individuals who will live, work and enjoy the building or place.
A key element of any city’s rich tapestry is its physical boundaries – typically road, rail and water – that stitch buildings and places together. In densely occupied cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham, our architects and urban designers are successfully responding to these boundaries to deliver highly successful places and buildings, bringing forgotten pockets of the city to life.
Our designs seek to break down economic and cultural barriers, through healing or reinventing parts of the built environment. Through close collaboration with local authorities and developers, our aim is to create high-quality, inclusive and sustainable places for future generations.
Seven key current projects were featured that illustrate this. Find out more about each project and how they illustrate the theme below.
London City Island, Leamouth, London
Client: EcoWorld Ballymore
Surrounded on three sides by the River Lea and on its fourth side by a dual carriageway, a lack of context was the 4.7 hectare brownfield site’s biggest challenge. However, this became its biggest attribute as it allowed the creation of an imagined citadel of brightly coloured buildings that acted as a whole composition, with no one building upstaging its neighbour.
Providing 1,700 homes, the strongly coloured structural frames for ten residential blocks provide a cohesive identity for this distinctive, fine-grained island community. Key to the complete redevelopment of this site and overcoming its original absolute lack of place is striking the balance between residential and active daytime uses.
The scheme weaves together the ten residential buildings, a network of walkways and open spaces, as well as residents’ facilities including a clubhouse, bar/café, screening room, gym, spa and pools, the new home of the English National Ballet, Arebyte Gallery and the London Film School.
Royal Wharf, Royal Docks, London
Client: Oxley Holdings Ltd and Ballymore
Royal Wharf is an entirely new neighbourhood along the Thames riverfront in east London. We have masterplanned all 17 hectares of the former brownfield site for Ballymore, creating a community of homes for 10,000, including family townhouses, a school and community centre. As well as providing the detailed design for 1,700 units out of over 3,000 in total, we are acting as the design champion for the scheme for London Borough of Newham.
Many waterfront-masterplans place tall buildings at the river’s edge, forming a hard boundary and restricting the relationship with the water to a just a handful of residents. GHA’s approach was to extend the relationship to the whole community through the provision of a 500 metre riverfront promenade with multiple access points, and distributing the placement of tall buildings across the site. Furthermore, the western boundary of the masterplan is permeable, allowing Royal Wharf to merge seamlessly in to future developments. The elevated nature of the DLR line to the north of the masterplan diminishes the hardness of this boundary, also giving permeability to the scheme. Cyclists and walkers are able to easily-negotiate Royal Wharf as part of the ribbon of green open spaces and public routes running along the Thames.
The Mercian, Birmingham
Client: Moda Living
At 42-storeys, The Mercian will be one of Birmingham’s tallest residential towers and has pushed the city’s boundary for tall buildings in recent years. An elegant addition to Birmingham’s skyline, it will provide an important western marker for the city and has provided catalyst for the current redevelopment of the Broad Street area as well as a new wave of tall residential buildings in the city.
The 481-apartment building has been designed exclusively for rent. Providing a range of apartment sizes, residents will be able to manage the environment of their apartments through their phones and a 24-hour concierge service. The building will also feature a residents’ lounge, health centre and dining club. Retail and leisure space in the three-storey podium will include a 200-metre rooftop running circuit offering panoramic views of the Birmingham skyline, the first of its kind in the city.
Icknield Port Loop, Birmingham
Client: Urban Splash
Icknield Port Loop was built in 1772 as part of a canal running from Staffordshire to Birmingham. It became isolated in 1829 and several workshops and factories were built along the loop. This brownfield site is the location for one of the city’s most all-embracing redevelopment projects, stemming from both Urban Splash’s trademark out-of-the-ordinary approach and the site’s “island” status, a unique phenomenon for a city as land-locked as Birmingham.
In popular imagination an island is a place where established conventions change, which led the team to develop a set of rules which push the boundaries for both how the scheme is designed and how residents will live their daily lives. Residents have considerable ability to customise the layout of their homes not only at the point of construction, but also in the future. Each house benefits from a private outside space, as well as two new public parks and a canalside square and considerable shared community facilities – the use of which will be finalised by the residents themselves.
Physical boundaries with the canal will be harnessed through the promotion of the towpaths and waterways as realistic day-to-day routes in to the city centre and beyond.
Wardian, Marsh Wall, London
Client: EcoWorld Ballymore
Wardian London is a residential building designed to exploit the exceptional waterside location in West India Dock. Working closely with client EcoWorld Ballymore alongside Tower Hamlets and the GLA’s urban design team to deliver 768 apartments, including 12% affordable housing and 6% shared ownership.
Located immediately south of Canary Wharf, the Wardian site is constrained by water (South Dock), rail (the DLR), and road (Marsh Wall). The stepped form and elegant silhouettes of Wardian London’s dual towers are a clear response to the ever-evolving skyline of Canary Wharf. The double height building tops, which accommodate penthouses and a residents’ sky lounge, offer fantastic views of the city and beyond.
The elevated DLR track at the site’s eastern boundary runs within six meters of one tower, therefore the residential element of the blocks sits above a podium. The two-storey podium serves to ground the building in its surroundings, reinforcing clear street edges to existing routes. Uses are carefully positioned around the building to maximise active frontages facing onto Marsh Wall, South Dock and the public gardens to the west, which reconnect well-used pedestrian routes.
Brentford Waterside, Brentford, London
Bounded by Brentford High Street to the north and the Grand Union Canal / River Brent to the south, the Brentford Waterside masterplan aims to reconnect these two areas, reinvigorating the space and reinstating the character of the industrial site’s historic yards. Driven by a heritage strategy, the 4.79 hectare masterplan will create almost 900 new homes along with retail, employment, community and leisure use units.
Working in collaboration with two other architectural practices, initial consultation helped to define the masterplan vision which includes recreating an active High Street shopping area and maximising the waterfront while integrating the heritage and character of the area and creating a central community point. The residential element is mixed tenure and comprises a mix of typologies, including apartments, duplexes and townhouses, while materials used reflect the existing and historic fabric of the area.
In addition to the masterplan, we have developed Plot K in the first phase, which will provide 66 apartments with an emphasis on generous two-bedroom units designed to take full advantage of the prime waterfront location with large balconies. The facade is organised with double height bays dramatically breaking down the massing.
125 Deansgate, Manchester
Client: Worthington Properties
Positioned on Manchester’s Deansgate between the gateway to Spinningfields and its civic heart at St Peter’s Square, 125 Deansgate marks a significant opportunity for this part of the city. Physically and architecturally bound by Deansgate and Manchester’s centrepiece Grade I listed John Rylands Library that sits opposite the site, the team needed to design a building that echoes the industrial character of its neighbours, while also establishing its own presence as a contemporary addition to the streetscape.
As such, 125 Deansgate is a distinct office scheme that is designed with a contemporary yet strikingly calm approach, with a finely articulated facade of bespoke terracotta. It pushes boundaries relating to the existing office and retail provision in Deansgate, offering almost 12,000 square metres of Grade A office and retail space in truly flexible and generous floor plates, and is providing a catalyst for the transformation and regeneration of the surrounding area.