ULI UK Urban Art Forum Launch: Land Art Generator Initiative
I recently moderated the inaugural event of the ULI Urban Art Forum, which was devoted to the work of the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAG
As the housing crisis took centre stage in the Autumn budget, the Urban Land Institute offered a glimpse into how architects and developers are maximising the potential of new London developments, by organising a tour of the Royal Wharf, a flagship regeneration project alongside the Thames in East London.
The ‘What is Density’ event used the Royal Wharf as a backdrop to consider how creative thinking can be used to deliver a bespoke development. The Royal Wharf, owing to its location on the banks of the River Thames and in the vicinity of London City Airport, has been faced by a number of restrictions on density and building height. Nonetheless, Glenn Howells Architects have embraced the challenges and designed a development with an organic neighbourhood feel.
For instance, flood defence levels prevent the placement of residential units on the ground floor of buildings alongside the river. Because of this the Royal Wharf has created a scenic riverside park, with 500m of river frontage. As well as a bustling high street in the heart of the development that will provide residents and visitors with a variety of shops and restaurants. In doing so, it has turned ecological constraints into urban design opportunities. Setting a powerful example of how urban design can adapt to evolving climate risks.
This commitment to sustainable design is matched by a commitment to architectural diversity. While Glenn Howells designed the majority of the urban fabric; several plots were awarded to the winners of architectural competitions. This has contributed to an urban design which is fresh, varied and unique. A far sight from the traditional perception of grey brutalist towers.
The site is also unique in its approach to overcoming the density limitation imposed by a low PTAL score. The developers, Ballymore, worked closely with Newham council to create a tailored strategy that worked to maintain the village feel, whilst maximising occupants. Nine and ten storey apartment blocks sit alongside open green space, giving residents room to roam and room to build a connected community.
Whilst the event was focused on land use and density, it was hard not to be impressed by the success of the cutting edge construction techniques being utilised on site. The Royal Wharf has partnered with Hurks, a Dutch firm specialising in prefabricated construction. Sections of building are being shipped in and put into place immediately. With over a 100 lorries coming onto the site each day the prefabricated second phase was completed before the traditionally built first phase, despite starting over a year later.
These second phase buildings are also built without scaffolding, and are watertight throughout the construction phase. They are also extremely reliable in terms of measurement, meaning that the fit out time and cost is greatly reduced.
The ‘What is Density’ event showed everyone present how an embrace of the challenges presented by density and planning restrictions can lead to a development with a clear vision of its place in the community, and a development that showcases the possibilities of modern planning and design. It has the potential to act as a blueprint for future approaches by delivering large scale, and sustainable housing.
Words by Neil Mckenzie, Blackstock PR