A funeral home in Essex and a Paragraph 80 country house in rural Cambridgeshire are among the latest approved schemes
Homes for both the living and dead appear in this month’s selection of recent planning consents. A funeral home in Essex by Edge carefully deals with specific spatial needs within as well as a its suburban domestic context externally, while a Hawkes Paragraph 80 house in Cambridgeshire can take flight into a more fanciful realm of design, and a strikingly contemporary and luxurious private home in Cambridgeshire from AR Design is concealed within a wooded landscape. A mixed-use scheme turns a part of London into a Foster + Partners megaproject while, also in London, Emrys Architects and Buckley Gray Yeoman tackle unique existing sites to provide large office schemes.
A funeral house for Essex
While the emerging economic crisis will see many high streets and businesses struggle, a far-from-dying industry is the funeral sector, which provides a valuable service even if it is a trade most of us only consider in the most tragic of circumstances. T Cribb & Sons already has 18 funeral homes throughout Essex and London, and commissioned Edge to design its latest offer in Laindon, a town bordering Basildon and largely comprising one and two-storey suburban homes and bungalows.
Because of this domestic context, Edge’s design needed to have an ‘empathy’ with the scale and surrounding typology, while still creating a form that holds its visible corner plot and is recognisable as a funeral home and not as one of the surrounding domestic buildings. This was taken into account through the adoption of a domestic scale, pitched and gabled roofs, and use of brick and render. However, the building stands out from the surroundings through a signature use of vertical windows, which also helps privacy within, and a curved edge at the corner of the site to create an identifying prominence.
There are also many programme considerations specific to a funeral home, which an architect would not have to consider for any other project. As well as back-of-house, staff, service and entrance spaces, this scheme also required two chapels of rest, a service room, a body store, and an ablution room. Consideration also needed to be given to an interior aesthetic that aids the comfort and support of visitors, and a spatial arrangement that works for the many separate user journeys through the building – whether a member of the public visiting to make a new enquiry, a funeral arrangement, the service and associated visitors and floral tributes, or indeed for the body to be brought onto site and prepared.
A design for a Mosquito
Hawkes Architecture was delighted when an email from the Planning Inspectorate landed in its inbox, letting it know its design for a unique rural home had been permitted on appeal following rejection in January. Informing a creative response to Paragraph 80 policy requirements, the design playfully references its historic setting.
The 6m-wide project site, centred within a field with a narrow access road, was once a workshop for the RAF Castle Camps Second World War airfield which, in 1948, was disposed of with the landscape returning to agricultural use. It was from here that 157 Squadron flew the first Mosquito night fighters, planes that have informed not only the context of the house but its very aesthetic.
Using the original blueprints of the De Havilland Mosquito – originally constructed of mixed woods – Hawkes rationalised the shape of the plane’s fuselage to form an elongated house for two working professionals. The practice’s approach in effect splits the fuselage shape in half to become two external walls to a home that does not so much try to mimic the plane so much as poetically reference it within the landscapes from which it once flew.
Internally, the house is split into two pivoted and split-level sections: an open-plan kitchen and living area in the south section and a two-storey sleeping and working area to the north. The fuselage-esque walls abutting each section reveal their internal ribbing structure, which along with the split-form references the construction methods of the original aeroplanes. From the road, the building will appear to fly above the landscape. It will be sited above a newly planted wildflower meadow and wetland.
The council’s initial rejection took issue with many aspects of the design, including a colour scheme that was not RAF Grey, and said the scheme was not appropriate ‘in terms of scale, density, mass, form, siting, design, proportion, materials [and] texture’. The inspectorate, however, considered the project to be of ‘exceptional design quality’, adding that ‘whilst the dwelling would be an urban intervention in contrast to the rural countryside setting, the design rationale behind the proposal has been executed well, and the concept would be a unique representation of local military history’.
A two-faced office
A City of London site comprising three existing office buildings is set to be replaced with a single block of large floor plans, covering the entire plot between Coleman Street and Moorgate, with new facades on each side and the narrow Great Swan Alley running to its northern edge. The historic four-storey Victorian brick frontage of 63 Coleman Street will be retained, offering inspiration and guidelines to the scheme’s new frontages, which sit alongside and to the Moorgate side of the plot.
The new elevations are formed of changing levels, with a double-storey rusticated limestone plinth, then three floors of faience piers with decorated stone spandrels, one storey of limestone lintels and piers, before a double-height bronze colour metal cladding and green walls stepped back for terrace access. Great Swan Alley, connecting the two main roads, will also be overhauled with new lighting, paving inspired by the wave-like granite setts of Lisbon, and windows offering glimpses into the ground floors.
A reception area and two Class E use areas make up that ground level. Open-plan offices – made possible by clearing the site of three disconnected blocks – fill the floors above. The sixth and seventh floors are slightly narrower, each with external terraces, with another rooftop terrace looking over Coleman Street.
According to practice director Glyn Emrys, the structured use of materials and tones within the elevations demonstrates ‘our skill in knitting contemporary design into complex and characterful streetscapes’.
A contemporary ancient woodland home
Planning permission has been given to a bespoke home which seeks to combine modern aesthetics in careful response to the secluded surroundings of an ancient Chilterns woodland. The site, enclosed by mature trees on all sides, is currently occupied by a red brick two-storey pitched roof home which the architect, in its design and access statement, claims is ‘outdated and no longer in line with modern building standards’. It adds that ‘a new build presents the opportunity to build a house that will respond to the site context and modern living requirements, and will represent the highest standards of architectural design and construction’.
The design is formed of two rectangular masses cutting into the site’s natural slope, reading as two boxes formed of stone and timber. The upper level sits irregularly over the lower, with the 12 facades formed offering changing views into the woods which wrap tightly around. The space where the two masses intersect provides a statement spiral staircase, connecting to all wings of the property.
At lower level, the four wings contain a double garage as well as an office, games room, gymnasium and two bedrooms, each with sliding doors opening onto sunken gardens. Above, on the main living floor, a further two bedrooms share a family bathroom and a whole wing is given over to a generous master suite with double walk-in wardrobes, ensuite and a balcony reaching towards the woodland.
A formal dining area and two lounges can also be found on this main level. The largest wing provides open-plan family living areas for cooking, dining, with another lounge and study. Balconies are built in at various places and, because each wing is only one room deep, each space offers a variety of framed views into the trees and newly landscaped garden which will undergo a process of non-native species removal to reinforce the ancient woodland setting.
Offices from good bones
A 1936 six-storey industrial hulk, which has had a rich heritage of former occupiers, is set for its next stage of life with a refurbishment and extension. Formerly home to EMI Records and Lyons Maid, the building will be comprehensively decluttered, refined back to its shell and added to with a rooftop pavilion and new wing to provide over 11,000m² of versatile workspace – including 720m² of affordable workspace through Section 106 locked in at a 40 per cent discount in perpetuity.
The existing building will have lowered ceilings and other accretions removed to form open-plan spaces with slab ceilings. An updated core will meet improved modern circulation and WC requirements. An existing mansard enclosed roof plant on top of the existing building will be removed and replaced with two floors of glazed office space stepping back from the main massing.
There will be some demolition. An existing two-storey side building comprising loading bays, which was added after the main building, will be replaced with a tiered red brick extension with planted balconies to attenuate rainwater. Lower down, the architect will ‘activate the base’ by replacing opaque framed glazing with floor-to-ceiling open shopfronts and a new café to improve the relationship with the surrounding streetscape.
In 1957, Lyons installed the LEO II, its own computer designed to organise the distribution of cakes and perishable foodstuffs as well as handling the company’s accounts. Google founder Eric Schmidt has dubbed the LEO machines the world’s first office computers, and this overhaul and renewal will see the building enter its second century of functioning use, despite the working environment and its relationship to technology radically altering over the intervening decades. Buckley Gray Yeoman director Amr Assaad speaks to this solidity and adaptability, describing it as ‘a fantastic example of the “good bones” of London’s 1930s architecture‘. At a time of relentless demolition and greenwash, to retrofit and retain the original function of a building without releasing 9,500 tonnes of embedded carbon is a strong marker.
The creation of Foster Boulevard
Total site area 4,100m²
Client MARK with Finchatton and General Projects
Architect Foster + Partners
Landscape architect Townshend Landscape Architects
Planning authority City of Westminster
Planning ref 20/04934/FULL
Rumours that the road currently known as Queensway, in London’s Bayswater, is to be renamed Foster Boulevard may or may not be true. What is the case, however, is that Foster + Partners is creating a ravine of architecture, with the practice’s under-construction transformation of the Whiteley department store into a vast mixed-use scheme now set to be directly addressed from across the road by a new and equally sizable project containing shops, offices, and homes.
Taking its name from William Whiteley, the founder of the department store across the road, the William will be six floors over two connected blocks, one of cross-laminated timber construction containing over 8,300m² of offices, the second of traditional concrete structure with 32 new homes. Running underneath both blocks are nearly 2,000m² of shops.
It is the developer’s second proposition for the site. A 2017 scheme comprising 94 residential units across three buildings was pulled after it was felt a declining residential demand made the finances unviable. However, even though this new approach places more focus on commercial spaces, it still sees an increase in five properties from the existing 27 properties in the post-war Queensway Parade, which is now set to be demolished.
The developer has stated that 35 per cent of the new apartments are set to be affordable, and that they are ‘predominantly one and two bedroom and have an average internal area of around 87m²’ – though it must be said that this is somewhat inflated by the luxurious duplex apartments across the fifth and sixth levels.
Externally, the office block of the William is designed to relate to the retained Whiteley facade opposite, visually relating to the department store’s structural grid, pulling reference from its cornices at levels two and four, and having a similar solid/glass ratio for the large aluminium framed windows set within precast concrete columns and bullnoses. The residential block features a brick frontage with a repeating recessed rhythm.