Fish Island and Hackney Wick are showing encouraging signs of regeneration, five years on from the London Olympics.
That was the key message from this morning’s breakfast talk at NLA, which was kicked off by Hannah Lambert, senior designer at the London Legacy Development Corporation.
Lambert said that the reach of her organisation stretched across 480ha and four borough boundaries, with the most visible signs being the Olympic Park now having attracted 17 million visitors, six permanent venues from the Games, Here East, and the nearly complete International Quarter. But the next phase of adding a ‘cultural mix’ was ‘really exciting’ with organisations like Sadlers’ Wells and UCL set to put down firm roots in the area. ‘We see a new piece of city emerging and are really keen to make sure it’s one that connects back into London’, she said.
The area of Hackney Wick is of particular interest as one of three neighbourhood centres around the park with – from its 2006 research – its 600 studios, each with around 6 artists making this the densest concentration of artists in Europe. A townscape framework seeks to support 850 new homes and 35,000 sqm of employment space. Lambert added that key lessons of its work in the area included valuing the heritage of the area, testing ideas early, delivering public realm and infrastructure to support future development - it has aspirations to have 55,000 people living in 10,000 homes on the park by 2031.
Some of that number will call Wickside home. Ash Sakula Founder Partner Cany Ash presented the multi-NLA award winning scheme, describing it as representing a move ‘towards a biophilic neighbourhood’. ‘We were really excited with this scheme to splice more green with the architecture’, she said, drawing on the ‘gift’ for placemaking of a linear park connecting Victoria Park to the Olympic Park. This allowed the designers to ‘hijack’ every horizontal surface for the park, not just at ground level, but in creating ‘intimate’ and different kinds of spaces throughout the plot including roofscapes. The 3D park could nurse the passage of rain from rooftop to the SUDs in the ground, said Ash, buffering against the A12 with trees and even including basement parking where the ‘deep green’ could be recreated with more planting. BUK Architects partner Freedie Heaf added that a key early move in its work in the area was to ‘cast a net on Fish Island’ to determine the kinds of businesses that might want to move there. This helped instil a sense of ownership and enabled the architects to better design spaces, spreading activity over as much of the site as possible and clustering uses together. ‘Engagement with tenants early on can really inform the design process’, said Heaf.
At Fish Island Village, meanwhile, said Haworth Tompkins Architects associate Ken Okonkwo, the plan is for 508 new units with the first set of blocks complete next spring, with a brief from Peabody to help improve the quality of the employment offer, enhance elevational treatment and provide better housing quality. The challenge had been to connect with the existing community and keep workspace accessible and affordable, but Peabody’s agreement with The Trampery was a big help to making the place active from day one. Discussion of the project included issues such as planning, live/work units and how the area could retain its ‘rugged’ aspect rather than anything ‘twee and precious’.
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