We look at plans for social housing in Southwark, more room for illustration in Kings Cross, a public space redevelopment in Birmingham and a scheme in Brighton to better support people with autism and learning disabilities
Two historic buildings are renovated for new uses, with Tim Ronalds Architects implanting a new national museum into a cluster of historic industrial buildings, and Deacon and Richardson Architects providing disability support, residential, and community use within a Hove church.
We also consider public realm by Grant Associates landscape architects, connecting civic spaces in central Birmingham, and new social rent housing in South London by Gort Scott.
Over the next two decades, a lump of Southwark east of Bricklayers Arms roundabout will be a hive of activity as cranes and construction transform the Old Kent Road Opportunity Area from light industrial employment and commerce into 20,000 new homes – of which it is planned 7,000 will be affordable, with 5,000 for social rent. An early instalment is set to be Credon House, a Gort Scott scheme for Pocket Living offering 22, one-to-three bedroom, social rent flats above 82m² of workspace.
The site adjoins an existing eight-storey Pocket Living block, which enables the design of Credon House to reach nine floors, creating a corner to the future redevelopment zone where low-rise sheds currently sit. It is the existing industrial context which has led to the London vernacular material palette of two-tone brick, white pigmented pre-cast concrete, with deep red oxidised metalwork detailing.
Though a tightly packed site, two outside spaces are provided, one ground level 117m² courtyard with soft bark play space and enclosing perennials and climbing plants, while a small roof terrace offers residents views towards the south through a brick colonnade structure. All the flats are dual aspect, with one triple aspect, each having an external space and a floor to ceiling height of 2.55m.
House of Illustration
Total site area: 3,400m²
Client: House of Illustration
Architect: Tim Ronalds Architects
Landscape consultant: BEA Landscape Design Ltd
Planning authority: Islington Council
Planning ref: P2021/1545/FUL
A cluster of industrial buildings dating from 1750 to 1850 once forming the pumping infrastructure for the New River are to be brought back to public access for the first time in over 70 years, set to become a new national museum. The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration – named after the illustrator most famed for his renderings of Roald Dahl’s gruesome characters who founded the House of Illustration in 2002 – will become the artform’s national home, offering space for exhibitions, alongside educational and social spaces, and archive for the 40,000 works Blake donated. A new stair and lift will ensure the upper floors of the engine house are fully accessible.
The House of Illustration has been based in Granary Square, Kings Cross, since 2014 with this new space more than doubling their current capacity to 13,000 m², with a new stair and lift ensuring the upper floors of the Engine House are fully accessible. A pedestrian route will pass through the site, with smooth cobbles introduced to the heart of the yard allowing access to all, and the existing traditional cobbles re-used at the edges. Other elements will be reintroduced or repaired, including a rooflight to the boiler house roof, which will become a generous new café with external terrace.
New residential developments have been popping up on surrounding plots, with developers having made several unsuccessful applications to convert these historic industrial buildings into homes before this new cultural strategy was enacted. It will ensure the historic site becomes accessible and conserved, with the architects approaching with a strategy of leaving much of the existing layout unchanged, leaving the patina of history present with new spaces appearing as an ‘insertion’ into the historic fabric, while extending the store buildings to provide more flexible spaces and a foyer entrance.
The main engine house, solidly designed by Robert Milne to withstand industrial reverberation, is considered the main event of the project. Inside will be a series of climate-controlled galleries for exhibitions, including permanent displays of Blake’s work.
Paradise public realm
The Paradise masterplan is a large redevelopment project across the civic centre of Birmingham, comprising 10 individual office, residential, and hotel buildings and a network of new or improved public squares and pedestrian routes. Phase two of three is under construction, with Grant Associates recently receiving consent for the public realm and landscaping between buildings by architects, including Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, ISA Architecture & Design, Eric Parry, and Glenn Howells.
It’s a scheme which has to work as its own phase, but also seamlessly connect through to both existing and forthcoming phases of the development, as well as the existing urban fabric surrounding the Paradise site. This phase doesn’t feature any of the larger set-pieces of the broader landscaping strategy, though is arguably more important as a piece of civic infrastructure, acting as passage between Centenary, Chamberlain, and Victoria squares. In a scheme which seeks to be more than a uniform stitching between the grander spaces, room is made for Ratcliff Square, a smaller opening between the new blocks
Hard surfacing makes up most of the scheme – with small grassed areas within the Western Terrace acting as gateway into the site – across a 70,000m² scheme with heavy footfall and spillout between key civic sites. Grants punctuate the natural stone paving with granite furniture and planters enclosing a range of trees within a planting palette designed for seasonal interest and hardy growth. These are spaces which are not seeking to be monumental or statements in their own right, so much as provide solidly detailed and specified passage through the new urban core, rather than treat it as an afterthought to the statement architectural projects.
The Grace Eyre Foundation
The Grace Eyre Foundation offers support and services to more than 500 people with autism and learning disabilities across Sussex and London, with most of their work carried out in Brighton and Hove. They have been running services from the flint-faced former church and neighbouring school rooms since the 1950s within a building which has seen a series of piecemeal conversions and developments. This more coordinated strategy will organise the building’s disjointed layout, offer greater access where possible, as well as provide eight one-bedroom flats for use by adults with learning disabilities.
Once complete, the main church building will include an improved ground floor multi-use theatre, which can also be rented to the local community, an arts space, multi-purpose community and session spaces, as well as a publicly accessible café. The building will also incorporate office areas for the Foundation’s 50-strong staff, while the adjoining former schoolroom block will become personally adaptable flats which the Foundation say will “create calm and safe living environments where people can maximise [residents] independence”.
Neither building is listed, though the former United Methodist Church, built in 1904-05, will retain most of its internal fabric and externally refurbished with a new clay roof and secondary-glazed windows in lead casements. It sits in a prominent corner location, with numerous letters of support from local residents for a scheme which will embed strong community and social provision into the restored buildings.