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Millbrook Park, Inglis Barracks, Apartment Blocks.

Millbrook Park

Work with TateHindle Architects 
RIBA Stages 0-4

We were chosen to redesign this phase of the Millbrook Park masterplan following a small invited competition in which my colleague Bruno Santos produced an idea for a master plan scheme that not only blew us all away but also got our feet in the door to work with Countryside Properties on several subsequent projects.

The existing master plan for the former Inglis Barracks former MOD site was a very unimaginative, watered-down version of a garden city, with a haphazard arrangement of houses and blocks of flats on the sloping terrain that needed to be rethought. 

The original landscape ideas developed for the original master plan, on the other hand, were sound and provided a great starting point. We needed to step up the urban design and master planning game as we designed the first phase on the large former MOD site.

We chose a contemporary version of housing terraces, with three and four-bedroom townhouses running alongside the east-west flat roads and blocks of one and two-bedroom apartments running north-south on the ends of the urban blocks and adapting to the hilly terrain, and providing recognisable marker buildings.

The terraced houses featured castellated top floor terraces that afforded excellent views and privacy, while the apartment blocks featured a mix of projecting balconies and carved out terraces on the top floors.

Parking and service areas are located in the middle of urban blocks, with landscaped gardens above. 

BBUK Studio created a subtle and engaging landscape design, expertly utilising endemic species, creating a range of sustainable SUDs and drainage strategies – even in this steep terrain – and creating a play area for children, and opening up paths and views to distant areas of London. 

Cornwall Terrace

Cornwall Terrace was the first completed residential terrace overlooking Regent’s Park. Decimus Burton built it in the 1820s as part of John Nash’s Crown Estates master plan for Regent Street and Regent’s Park. The houses were severely damaged during the Blitz and were derelict for some time, but they were given Grade I heritage status and restored and converted into offices in the 1970s. 

Before the 70s renovation, Italian anarchists squatted the buildings – we uncovered anarchist graffiti behind false partitions during the renovation work! As part of the 1970s conversion, the terrace’s rear extensions were demolished to make way for Cornwall Terrace Mews, a service street for the terrace’s new office buildings, whilst leaving the Regent’s Park palatial elevation untouched. In 2007, our client Oakmayne purchased the lease of The Crown Estate properties from REIT British Land. 

I was brought in to deliver the construction drawings for the planning and listed building consent originally obtained by Paul Davis and Partners. Early on, it became clear that some of the original designs for converting the terrace into apartments were not viable: the ceiling heights varied greatly from floor to floor, and some mansard roofs had small windows and no views of the park. So we went back to get permission to redesign the conversion. We had to carefully assess what remained of the buildings’ original fabric and devise a strategy to preserve and restore it.

The client understood that delivering a high-quality residential product would require serious noise mitigation due to the levels of noise coming from the London Underground trains of nearby Baker Street Station. Therefore, we commissioned acoustic noise level surveys in every room, and with this data, we designed a noise attenuation system comparable to music studios. Where required, we built a “room within a room” with acoustic raised floors, ceilings, and walls inserted into the historic fabric of the buildings.

We worked closely with Westminster City Council, English Heritage (now Historic England), The Crown Estates Pavement Commission and Royal Parks to obtain all necessary planning and listed building consents. In addition, we designed service routes within the historic building shell that could provide the required services (comfort cooling and heating, plumbing, electric, and IT) that could be accessed and serviced and replaced in the future, thus ensuring the preservation of the original fabric. 

We provided all the technical expertise and design coordination to create a basement swimming pool underneath one of the houses and lower the base slabs to increase the floor to ceiling heights of the lower ground floors. 

We worked with several teams of specialist interior designers providing construction drawings, technical coordination, and design guidance within the context of a Grade I listed building. Cornwall Terrace achieved a record price for a terrace house in the UK and won two Evening Standard London Housing awards.

55 Broadway

We won this two-stage open competition to refurbish and repurpose TfL’s iconic Art Deco’s headquarters. As interesting as the building itself was the structure of the competition: On the second round, TfL selected two architectural practices to work alongside each other, sharing the same design team, so that the winning design would be able to incorporate ideas from the other scheme. We were paid for six months work to produce a scheme in competition with Allies and Morrison. As well as coming up with the winning strategy of liberating the cruciform art deco building by creating a side street, I led the residential redesign and strategy. I worked very closely with Knight Frank who were advising on the development values The tenet of the strategy to achieve the best value for TfL was to locate the units that fetched the highest price per square foot on the best sections of this incredible building. The comparative unit values per square foot of large units far outweighed the values of the smaller units, and the higher the floor, the higher the value. So with this in mind, I devised a services strategy that had all the plant and services located in low value areas of the first floor on the service yard, and in contrast with Allies and Morrison’s scheme, had no plant on the roofs or upper stories at all. This immediately gave us a big competitive edge, which allowed us to produce a very creative scheme that made the most of the incredible design features of this remarkable building. My colleague Simon Ricketts created a very strong retail space strategy, that combined with the residential development, proved to be decisive in producing a winning entry.

New Fetter Place

Kirkbi, the holding company of LEGO, had owned 10-12 New Fetter Lane, Maxwell House as part of their pensions portfolio. It had been originally built by disgraced press baron Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell’s father. The existing building was a brick-clad octagonal tower with a central core. As part of the proposals, the building floorplates were extended, and the core mover to the north, with three panoramic lifts overlooking Holborn Circus. As the building sat within one of St Paul’s Cathedral’s viewing corridors, only one additional storey was added. It was a heavy cut and carve exercise, with a full reclad and rebuild of the low rise block that connects the main tower with Fetter Lane and Bartlett’s Passage. As we designed the 90,000 sqft midtown office building, once the construction contract had been won by Kier London, the team at TH was split in two: part was novated to the contractor to produce the construction drawings, and I was retained by the client to do the client monitoring role during the construction process. My role was one of advice and research, assisting the client and the project managers from Cushman and Wakefield. Upon completion, LEGO decided to take the upper stories of the development as their London headquarters, with a vibrant Activity Based Working fit out by Dutch interior designers Veldhoen.

Cooper & Southwark

We were invited to bring up to date 61 Southwark Street, a former printworks building that had been converted into offices, and in spite of having had a rooftop extension, was providing poor quality office accommodation. The building sat opposite the Blue Fin Building, and the area had seen significant regeneration. The ground floor was raised by half a storey making access difficult. As the building sat back from Southwark Street, we proposed a ground floor extension towards the street, with a corner turret and an infill of the now redundant goods yard and car park to the rear. We relocated the TFL bus stop that stood outside the reception area and created a storey and a half high reception entrance on a full bay, bringing light and improving access and the quality of the space. As the building was occupied during construction, the refurbishment of the building was planned so that it could be done on a partial basis. Once we obtained planning consent for the pension fund and refurbished one of the floors, the fund sold the property to HB Reavis, who took on and completed the development.

Fintex House

The agents and project managers asked us for design ideas on an invited competition for this minute but characterful building in Soho. The Grade II listed building had been the headquarters of Fintex, a Huddersfield woollen mill that provided fine cloth to the tailors of nearby Saville Row. It now housed a cafe on the ground floor and offices on the upper storeys. The brief was to refurbish the building that housed poor-quality commercial office space and increase its value so the fund could sell it. The agents advised us that the best approach was for an office to residential conversion due to the small floor plates. So, from the outset, we analysed the ideal apartment mix to make the best use of the building and achieve the best value. The original upper storey of the Grade II listed building was of low height and poor quality and didn’t match the Dutch style gables of the southern elevation of Golden Square. So we saw an opportunity to create an improved residential top floor that would complete the frontage of Golden Square. The coffee shop shared the staircase with the offices above, with smells and waiters crossing paths with the office occupiers. We secured planning and listed building consent for two large apartments and alterations to the coffee shop by creating a rear extension to the café and a separate set of stairs. The pension fund wanted to sell Fintex House with planning permission rather than develop the apartments themselves, so we partially implemented the consent so that the residential development above could be taken forward by the new purchasers. It was part of a property portfolio owned by a pension fund, and on the back of this successful proposal, we went on to do a few more projects with the fund.

York Road, Maidenhead

I led the design of this two-stage winning open architectural competition in Maidenhead. The council wanted to develop publicly owned land within the city centre, with the dual purpose of bringing much needed urban regeneration to the centre of town and generating a revenue stream for the local authority. The brief was to provide a vision for the York Road area and deliver the first phase of this regeneration area, a Built-To-Rent residential scheme, on a plot of land used as an open car park fronting Bray Cut, a tributary of the Thames.

The town centre had uses that severely negatively impacted the urban environment. But there were incredibly positive sides to the area: Maidenhead Library is an actively used community asset, and the grounds of local football club MUFC (Maidenhead United FC) provided the fixture of the local football side, a series of cultural and music festivals throughout the year. In addition, as a critical location on the M4 corridor and one of the Crossrail stations, several high tech and pharmaceutical companies were headquartered in the town or nearby areas.
The master plan couldn’t allocate ground floor space to retail uses, as it would impact a high street already under pressure with a high percentage of empty shops and charity shops. Houses in the immediate periphery of Maidenhead were very desirable, unlike the residential offer in the city centre.

We proposed a series of medium density residential blocks facing the waterfront, with different forms of tenure. In the inner city, we came up with an idea for a Commercial Office City Campus that would subvert the isolated out of town Business Park Model with an inner-city model where an office occupier would use the ground floor of several buildings as meeting rooms and canteens, activating the public space during the daytime.

45 Eden Grove

The contractor initially invited us to do the construction drawings of this small four-storey 100% affordable housing scheme in Islington. However, as we started work with the structural engineers and quantity surveyors, it became clear that the costs of the consented scheme we had inherited were not stacking up.

And it was paradoxically because the spaces were not stacked-up that costs were unnecessarily inflated: The overlapping layouts of the previous scheme made the cladding complex and generated costly structural transfers

We made a case for our client that we could quickly redesign the scheme not only to get it within budget but also to improve the quality of the homes significantly: As the layouts were when we got involved, the bedrooms lacked privacy, and the living rooms were narrow, poorly lit spaces, barely ventilated and challenging to furnish and use. With our client’s approval, we went back to planning and quickly secured a revised consent, redesigned the scheme and got it within budget with significantly improved layouts.

After years of experience working with great interior designers and high-end residential developers,
we applied some space design principles that grand schemes take for granted. We gave this modest scheme: well-proportioned spaces, good zoning, and made the most of the site’s views. The living rooms in this small affordable block became wonderful spaces opening fully onto the balconies and the green foliage of a mature tree on site. We improved privacy by relocating the bedrooms to the back, and we got the costs down by stacking kitchens and bathrooms. As we redrew the layouts, there was no need for structural transfers, and the external envelope was straightforward to build and insulate, providing a sustainable building. It was a pleasure working with a small housing association capable of delivering small scale schemes that larger organisations often can’t. ISHA were instrumental and provided an experienced team led by Tricia Gillis in helping Barnsbury develop the project.

Susan French, the chair of Barnsbury HA, kindly invited me to hand the keys to the last of their social tenants at the end of the scheme. It was a moving experience in more than one way. I had designed and built many affordable housing schemes, but I had never met and talked to a tenant on the moving-in day. We talked about the flat’s design, and they asked us why we had placed the washing machine away from the kitchen! It was a great conversation with the ultimate users of the flat, and we were grateful to be able to hear their feedback and explain our thoughts behind the scheme. They were delighted with their new home and its wonderful balcony.

Seeing that young family moving into this flat full of light was one of the most rewarding moments I’ve ever had as an architect.

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