Client: Southwark Council / London & Quadrant
Won through an architectural competition, the Elephant & Castle Regeneration housing project for Brandon Street is part of Southwark Council’s plan to establish architectural quality benchmarks for the Borough. The Council’s programmatic brief was “to remove the visual and design differentiation between public and private housing, and to use the process to start to evolve a new generation of residential architecture for North Southwark, an architecture that expresses itself in terms of an urban form which is contemporary, light, flexible, mixed tenure and contained within a mixed use environment.”
Metaphorm’s response was, despite high density requirements, to create urbanity through public open space, to initiate and acknowledge Brandon Street’s increased future significance as an axis into the regenerated Elephant & Castle, to create characterful, yet practical dwellings, and to retain four existing trees.
The black brick side elevations are a contemporary extension of the established material pattern along adjoining roads. Ceramic-clad in 37 gradient colour tones, ranging from honey yellow to bordeaux red, the main façade breaks this continuity through a strong contrast, announcing the changing nature of Brandon Street and creating an element of delectation. Meandering past the four existing trees, it defines the character of both, external public and internal private spaces. The grey-white dual toned pre-cast concrete benches following the curvilinear façade are an invitation to stay, extended in particular to the children of the pre-school adjoining and to the elderly of the almshouse opposite.
Urbanistic considerations led to the creation of two blocks, each five storeys high, separated through of a small private courtyard. The orientation of the apartments varies between ground floor and upper floors. By not requiring ground floor windows on the eastern facade, this layout also permits the creation of a public space which does not interfere with the privacy of the street level units.
The use of an off-site manufactured Light-Gauge-Steel structure for tight-radius undulating walls is unprecedented, and the architectural design had to provide precisely determined variable pre-fabricated wall panel widths, as a function of radii, window positions, minimum and maximum wall cavity widths, etc, to avoid faceting of the façade. The building envelope comprises walls of inner leaf LGS panels with integral insulation, and outer leaves masonry and tiles, facing brickwork, and render on insulation, resulting in a compact wall construction achieving U-Values as low as 0.11W/m², a PassivHaus level, within an average-sized wall depth. The scheme achieves BREEAM Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4.
Consisting of two- and three-bedroom units, the apartments are new homes for residents of the soon-to-be-demolished Heygate Estate, and Council and architects consulted widely and early at pre-planning stages with future tenants and neighbours.
The project was built within the constrained budget governing affordable housing, for the London Borough of Southwark and London & Quadrant Housing Association.