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Later living is in the pink with sunny Michelmersh brickwork

Context and texture were key ingredients in this four-block scheme in Hampstead

In association with
Belle Vue’s pinky-red tumbled-brick facades are Morris+Company’s contemporary take on the red brick in the surrounding conservation areas.
Belle Vue’s pinky-red tumbled-brick facades are Morris+Company’s contemporary take on the red brick in the surrounding conservation areas. Credit: J Hopkins

Belle Vue is a contemporary 59-home community for later-living in Hampstead, north London. Designed by Morris+Company for developer Pegasus Life, the development occupies a compact, complex site bordering a 12-storey hospital to the north and smaller-scale buildings to the south and west.

A group of four blocks make up the scheme, each square in plan and ranging from four to 10 storeys in response to their position on the plot. The blocks are staggered to create a sequence of courtyards, gardens and terraces. Internally, homes are arranged within the blocks to provide dual aspect views across the neighbourhood to the city beyond.

While the hospital dominates the area, Morris+Company’s design has been developed to respond to the warm, red brick common in the Victorian houses that dominate the conservation areas surrounding the site. 

‘From the beginning we wanted the building to be a sympathetic neighbour,’ explains Morris+Company director Miranda MacLaren. ‘While it was not in a conservation area, Belle Vue is surrounded by all of the [London Borough of] Camden’s main conservation areas,’ she adds.

Belle Vue’s pinky-red tumbled-brick facades are Morris+Company’s contemporary take on the red brick in the surrounding conservation areas – in particular the brick-arches which frame the windows. 

‘We wanted to frame the windows on this scheme through light and shadow rather than through decoration,’ explains MacLaren. Above each window is a slanted lintel to increase its relative proportion; this is intended to make the windows appear to be ‘a much grander part of the facade’, says MacLaren. 

In addition to the slanting lintel, taller windows on the blocks’ upper floors have been given additional emphasis with a slanted side panel. ‘We felt these windows needed to have more of a carved, decorative massing so we also chamfered the window side,’ MacLaren explains.

In contrast to the chamfered window openings, inset corner balconies have tight, punched openings which emphasise the facade’s mass in helping conceal each resident’s private external space.

Michelmersh’s Floren Avorio was the brick chosen by Morris+Company for the scheme. ‘It has an engineered quality and a pinky tone with splashes of lighter white, which give it a lived in, textural quality,’ MacLaren explains. ‘We didn’t want it to look shiny-fresh, we wanted the texture of the brick to reinforce the play of light and shadow on the facade,’ she adds. Two bespoke blends of the Avorio brick have been used, one with 60% special pigmented slurry and one with 90%. The subtle contrast of the lighter-coloured bricks further emphasises the light falling on the vertical chamfer on the large window openings.

Light and shadow is a feature at the base of the facades too. Here, individual bricks have been splayed outwards at a 10° angle to create a fish-scale bond. MacLaren explains: ‘We chose to texture the wall rather than use a different coloured brick to land the building’.

All the bricks, including the textured sections of fish scale bond, were laid by hand. The only exceptions to this  are the sloping lintels and chamfered window edges, which are formed using mechanically-fixed brick slip panels. The brickwork was completed by Galostar to an exceptionally high standard to dovetail the traditionally laid bricks with the brick-slip elements.


 

Langley Square features a contrasting blend of Floren Castor and Albion bricks.
Langley Square features a contrasting blend of Floren Castor and Albion bricks. Credit: J Hopkins

Langley Square, Dartford, Kent

Russ Drage Architects’ design for this 400-apartment development in Dartford exploits its waterfront setting. 

Historically, the site housed the Phoenix Paper Mill, which was powered by water from the Mill Pond and River Darent, that flows through the site. More recently, the mill was replaced by the Wellcome pharmaceutical factory.

The architect has referenced the location’s industrial heritage with a series of seven-storey blocks that pay homage to the warehouses, wharf and industrial architecture that formerly stood there. This is reinforced by the use of brick on the facades, which feature a contrasting blend of Michelmersh’s Floren Castor and Albion bricks. The combination helps to break up the uniformity of the facades and add texture to this Weston Homes’ development.  

New riverside walks and landscaping increase the development’s public accessibility, while the introduction of waterside cafés and restaurants and a new public square make for a lively area. 


 

At Ivydale Primary, the rich earthy tones of Floren Castor bricks set off the abstract pattern of green triangles which were inspired by a Julia Woolf illustration.
At Ivydale Primary, the rich earthy tones of Floren Castor bricks set off the abstract pattern of green triangles which were inspired by a Julia Woolf illustration.

Ivydale Primary School, Southwark, London

The use of Michelmersh’s Floren Castor brick, which gives a rich earthy base facade tone, ensures Hawkins\Brown’s contemporary design for the new four-form Ivydale primary school block sits comfortably alongside the existing Victorian school building. The facade’s bold, brick pattern of abstract, triangular green triangles was inspired by a Julia Woolf illustration, ‘The Fox in the Forest’. Four shades of green-glazed bricks are used to form the triangles. These are laid in English Cross Bond to achieve the sharp diagonals. 

Inside, the classrooms are arranged either side of a double-height atrium and central hall to provide the school with flexible, adaptable spaces. The orientation, form and layout of the building are integral to its natural ventilation strategy and a lean and green approach to the school’s design.


 

Langley Square features a contrasting blend of Floren Castor and Albion bricks.
Langley Square features a contrasting blend of Floren Castor and Albion bricks. Credit: J Hopkins

Bollo Lane, South Acton, London

Bollo Lane is a modern building in the heart of West London, featuring 84 pocket homes, 28 private sale apartments and flexible office space. 

Developer Pocket Living has a philosophy of providing well-designed, affordable one-bedroom homes pitched at being at least 20% below the surrounding market rate to help first time buyers get onto the London property ladder. 

PRP Architects’ scheme for the building is based on the developer’s strict design codes. All homes have floor-to-ceiling windows and some feature terraces or balconies; residents also have access to two landscaped roof terraces. 

To keep costs low and quality high, the scheme makes extensive use of volumetric construction. The modules are clad in Michelmersh’s Floren Castor brick to give the scheme a robust, contemporary appearance. 


Sustainable Bricks

Michelmersh’s Floren Brickworks in Antwerp, Belgium, uses the latest production techniques combined with a range of ecological measures to minimise its environmental impact. Since the factory opened its doors 125 years ago, all Floren bricks have been made using high-quality Campine Quaternary clays from Floren’s own adjacent pits. As part of Floren’s commitment to sustainability, spent clay pits are turned into nature reserves and fishing lakes. In addition, a 20m wide band of vegetation has been planted around the perimeter of Floren’s production plant to further boost the wildlife habitat. 

Sustainability improvements to the production process include enhanced thermal insulation of both the kiln and dryers, and enhancements to the dryer controls to optimise the brick-drying process and shorten drying time while using less energy. In addition, 2500m2 of solar panels have been installed on the factory roof, which can supply all its electricity consumption on a summer’s day. And when the sun’s not shining, rainwater falling on the roof is also harvested for use in the production of the bricks, meaning no potable water is used at Floren.


 

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