Client: Southwark Council / London & Quadrant
Won through an architectural competition, the Elephant & Castle Regeneration housing project for Library 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.”
Forty units were created including large family flats and six 4-bedroom town houses, in mixed tenure of affordable rent and shared ownership sale. The aim was to establish a sequence of public, semi-public and private open spaces. Metaphorm’s design resisted the competition brief strategy of continuing the street front along the site-bisecting Milcote Street. Instead, a perimeter development with a courtyard layout was adopted, creating a green public square by linking new and existing buildings, and incorporating a community garden. On the western half of the site, an apartment block is located, angled in plan and stepping down towards the lower, listed, former library building adjoining south. On the eastern site half, a row of six town houses enclose the green open space towards north. Access to the apartment block is from the courtyard. The central position of the staircase allows for two short lobbies with a lift serving two to three flat entrances each.
The apartments benefit from generous loggias, terraces, balconies, or winter gardens. One of the best panoramic views over London can be enjoyed from the large landscaped roof garden, planted with trees and flowers, and with a pergola for festivities, serving all residents of the new development. The living spaces are mostly orientated towards south, east and west, maximising sunlight. All upper floor windows are storey-high, providing ample daylight to the interiors.
The houses were designed with a first-floor piano nobile, with a generous floor-to-ceiling height and a full-width balcony, overlooking the community garden in its entirety.
Beside scale and massing, materials and detailing were key to integrating the building within its partially listed conservation area neighbours. With reference to the colour variation of the adjoining buildings, brick in five different shades was chosen as the main material. However, in contrast to the context, a slim-line variety was used, with a slight hand-made appearance, arranged in a random bond. Subtly protruding and receding, storey-high brick panels in each of the five colour tones, and white pre-cast concrete elements, structure the facades.
The scheme achieves BREEAM Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4.
All created dwellings 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.