A water turbine on the site of Richard Arkwright’s original mill is among the latest schemes to win planning permission as well as residential projects in Devon, Oxford and London
Oxford domestic conversion
For many decades and until recently, 33 Iffley road had been used as offices, with permissions granted in 2020 for conversion into a single residence dwelling. Now, Resonant Architecture has gained permission for a rear extension as part of that project, offering an extended ground floor and basement for client Annie Sloan, a local businesswoman, paint seller and colour expert.
The new extension is formed of two varied arches in a light structure formed largely of glass, a light touch upon the semi-detached villa, which is within a conservation area. One arch opens on to a new dining area, itself open on to a new open-plan kitchen one step up and into the historic property. The other, narrower, arch relates to a staircase leading upwards to a ground-floor art studio, now also benefiting from the glazed-roof extension and light it will allow deeper into the plan. Over the years, and with the repurposing of the building as offices, the primary entrance has shifted from the Iffley Road frontage to the rear. The new extension not only offers an improved layout but also clarifies and tidies the formal entrance to the property.
As an office building, little attention had been given to external spaces. As part of the scheme, the rear of the house is set to become a richly biodiverse garden directly connecting to the primary living spaces within a scheme set to total £400,000.
Devonshire Park, Paignton
A former telecommunications engineering site, rebranded as Devonshire Park, will bring 254 homes to Paignton in Devon. The site is adjacent to Devonshire Retail Park, part of the client’s larger scheme, which opened in 2019. It is estimated to have a gross development value of £100 million.
Comprising a variety of semi-detached and detached short-run terraces and two blocks of apartments, the scheme may sound somewhat run-of-the-mill for such large-scale developments. However, the project's aesthetic starkly varies from an average developer-led scheme, The Harris Partnership has used an architectural palette of 'modern intent', with materials including zinc and timber across architectonically playful forms, pitched roofs graphically breaking up the rolling hills.
'This scheme breaks the mould,' says Harris Partnership director Ian Perrell, adding: 'We hope it will be a catalyst for design-led brownfield development in Paignton.' As with surrounding developments of more traditional developer aesthetic and material, the scheme is formed around cul-de-sacs and green spaces, though each structure has dedicated electric car-charging points, as well as air source heat pumps, with a future intent in the scheme beyond aesthetic form.
St John’s Wood mansion block
This late 1800s mansion block was originally a row of terraced houses before a 1918 remodelling removed entrance steps and front doors to create the current massing, which does not have any entrances on Abbey Road, along which it sits. The block is within the St John’s Wood Conservation Area and so street-facing external changes are kept to the minimum. These include a repositioning of upper-floor windows, realignment of dormers, realignment of upper-level banding, additional bay windows to balance the frontage, and a new entrance.
Much of the work is being carried out to significantly improve environmental performance behind the existing facade. Fathom Architects collaborated with a specialist supplier of ecological building products to come up with an approach of natural and breathable cork and clay materials, offering excellent thermal performance while exceeding existing regulations, including fire rating.
To the interior existing solid brick facade, a new skim of lime-based insulating plaster faced with calcium climate board and plaster finish is to be installed, while a grid of photovoltaics covering 93m² will be added to the roof as part of an all-electric strategy for the block. The internal spatial arrangements are being reconfigured for modern standards, overall creating 29 residences, five more than currently.
Bishop’s Avenue retirement
Readers may know London’s Bishops Avenue as a gated McMansion-infused road of oligarchs, buy-to-leave-empty investments, and luxury dereliction. It has a reputation of exclusive seclusion, but times change and this scheme from rg+p seeks not only to bring life to the avenue but also interject it with contemporary flourish.
The scheme, for retirement living developer Riverstone, will provide 93 apartments, ranging from one to four bedrooms. True to the wealth of the neighbourhood, it will contain a richer quality of retirement than the average pensioner’s, with amenities including steam room and sauna, ballroom, cinema and treatment rooms.
Having picked up the project from a previously approved Wolff Architects Scheme (21/6284/s73), rg+p proposed a 'more conceptual approach' as well as reducing the massing of the previous project through a reduction in units from an initial 103, reduction in car-parking by 55 spaces to 89, and a change in design aesthetic that rg+p says responds more to the Hampstead Garden Suburb Conservation Area.
Ben Walton, rg+p’s design director and project lead, says: 'In keeping with nearby properties, the front of the scheme follows a mansion house appearance with ground-floor arched windows and decorative chimneys that complement rich brick detailing that is synonymous with the arts and crafts movement. The rear of the property takes a more playful approach inspired by subterranean vaults and architectural follies.'
Arkwright’s water wheel
Cromford Mills is a Grade I listed complex of early industrial buildings, built around the site of Richard Arkwright’s original mill, which was built in 1771 (gloriously rendered in Joseph Wright of Derby’s painting) later destroyed by fire, but still visible within its footprint embedded within the site which forms a part of the wider Derwent Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The owner, The Arkwright Society, wanted the architects to see if it was possible to insert a new water wheel to match the 7m diameter of the missing original. It is an approach to heritage that seeks to do more than scrape back the patina of time and reveal an archaeology of place, but to enact the conceptual purpose of the site, and in doing so support its future operation and sustainability.
The original 7m wheel would have been formed of timber, though feasibility studies suggested a replica would not be justified – the reduced amount of water and slow efficiency alongside high costs of the wheel would outweigh any benefit. Instead, a dual approach is to be taken, comprising a smaller wooden waterwheel to illustrate the historical technology, with a modern turbine also installed to generate the potential of the waterway’s embedded energy, expected to be some 55 MWh per year, the equivalent consumption of 15 homes.
Site visits for James Boon Architects were easy since it is located just a short walk away in a neighbouring mill. Its office may one day benefit from the water wheel as it is the start of a wider masterplan to develop clean energy from across the site, an aim the owners relate to Arkwright’s original vision of drawing energy from the landscape.
Kingston-Upon-Thames high street conversion
At a time of changing high streets, much is spoken of permitted developments, conversion of shops to housing and demolition of existing buildings. Working with structural engineer Rees Partnership Design, GRID Architects showed that disused spaces within an existing commercial building – occupied by Wilko – could support new residential units, and that the structure was capable of supporting three more storeys containing one, two and three-bed apartments.
Those new storeys step back and recede in brick hue to acknowledge the 'area of special character' within which the building is sited, while the second and third floors were found to have structural bays that offered a perfect rhythm for one-bed flats.
Alterations are also set to be made at ground level, supporting the continued use of retail at the ground and first floor and with an eye on providing a greater sense of place at the prominent urban junction. GRID suggests the scheme can shine a light on sustainable urban densification, both creating homes and conserving existing built fabric, benefiting not only the building itself but the wider high-street context – in this case a neighbouring listed cinema and other heritage assets.