Architects were commissioned in early 2005 to design a new mixed-use residential scheme for a site in London’s regenerating Southbank, near the Tate Modern. Ultimately comprised of 89 flats above ground floor retail units, the brief was to achieve permission for a scheme of very high density. This demanded a building of exceptional architectural and material quality. In a city historically averse to European style apartment living, it also questioned how design might challenge this prejudice.
The development site is triangular in shape, abutting a two-and-a-half storey pub to one corner and a proposed 8-storey hotel along its opposing edge. It was important for the proposed scheme to not read as one large mass. Instead a module of brick ‘boxes’, ranging from one to four stories in height, was employed to give the building a human scale. Two stock type bricks constitute the principal building material used throughout, broken down into these ‘boxes’, piled as high as eight storeys and gradually stepping down to meet the existing pub at the corner. This overall form negotiates between the areas existing and developing scales, while maximising the number of terraces that spill out from individual flats. The massing allows the building to open up the centre of the scheme, creating a first floor amenity area, allowing natural light to penetrate the middle of the site and in turn distribute natural light into the residential properties.
The project demonstrates how a dense residential scheme can provide a model for apartment living that challenges the suburban ideal, and helps establish a vision for a neighborhood as a place for people to visit, live, work, shop and eat. The ultimate effect is a contemporary building whose grain and texture reflect the areas industrial urban history, while promoting an active community in this dramatically changing neighbourhood.