Working for the Great Estates

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Marble Arch House © Daniel Shearing

Marble Arch House © Bennetts Associates

Three leading architects were at the NLA this morning to show how projects they are designing are all beneficiaries of the Great Estates’ long-termist philosophy and the way that lends itself to effective placemaking.

Paul Davis, founder of Paul Davis + Partners, took a packed audience on a whistle-stop tour of his proposals to rebuild the Chelsea Cinema, a project which includes a skybar, reworked affordable housing and at ground floor a ‘framework for interesting retail rather than something that is a bit bland’.

Davis said that Great Estates like his client Cadogan had proved that they were able to think long-term thanks in part to their being run by trustees rather than shareholder, allowing them to be custodians of London’s ‘villages’. In Cadogan’s case that was in evidence with projects like Cadogan Hall refurbishment for the Royal Philharmonic or revitalisation of the Duke of York’s site, which had created ‘breathing space’ for shoppers, away from the linear streets. 

David Walker, associate at Bennetts Associates Architects, said that his project – Marble Arch House on the Portman Estate – was commissioned as a gateway building for the whole estate and features a distinctive brise soleil with louvered panels.  Taken on by developer British Land, the scheme also showed an admirable commitment to flexibility and long-term thinking. ‘The Portman Estate do take a longer view about how the building is constructed’, he said. ‘We increased the structure so that they can add another floor if they want to in 50 years’ time’.

Finally, Mike Stiff, director of Stiff + Trevillion, said that his offices and retail project at 127-135 Sloane Street included the creation of new public space at the rear of the red Scottish sandstone building, which is articulated with chamfered bays. An unusual and sustainable step inside is the inclusion of plant serving each floor so that the responsibility for maintenance falls back onto the tenant. 

So how is it different working for an estate? ‘They recognise the importance that the building has to its surroundings and their portfolio’, said Stiff. ‘They’re looking at a 100-year plan, not a get-it-up-and-sell-it plan.’

David Taylor, New London Quarterly

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