The London Borough of Camden
67 homes, 134 dph, GIA 7,360m2
69% affordable, 31% private sale
Part of winning our submission for Housing Architect of the Year Award 2013
Shortlisted for a Housing Design Award 2016
Shortlisted for a British Construction Industry Award 2016
Shortlisted for a New London Architecture Award 2016
Shortlisted for a Building Award 2016
The redevelopment of the Bacton Low Rise Estate is a community-led estate renewal project, which Camden Council sees as the model for estate rebuilding in the borough. The first phase sets about rehousing the first members of the community affected by the rebuilding programme of the Gospel Oak Estates.
Built after significant consultation with residents from Cross-Laminated Timber and beautiful brick, it seeks to improve the lives of residents in a truly sustainable way while keeping the fabric and spirit of the community intact.
The Bacton Low Rise Estate in Gospel Oak, Camden, was built in the 1960s and had significant problems including poor maintenance, leaking roofs and unloved communal spaces. Through an extensive programme of engagement with the TRA and wider resident group, which involved a large number of meetings with local residents, it was clear that although the material fabric of the estate was in poor repair, there was a strong and coherent community spirit among the residents. There was also an evident desire to remain together as a community, and to continue living alongside people who were trusted neighbours and friends. It was therefore imperative to avoid a ‘double decant’, moving residents away from the area whilst demolition and construction was underway. Our solution was to begin the process of rehousing residents by building 46 new social rent council homes on the site that lies to the north east of the estate, forming Phase 1a of the housing programme. This site, a narrow triangle of land next to the Euston north-west high-speed railway line, had some severe constraints, including the noise and vibration caused by trains, but was also south-facing and had incredible views.
By creating a physical buffer along the railway comprising a terrace of generous, four storey townhouses and stacked maisonettes, we were able to mitigate noise and vibration and protect the south-facing, communal courtyard. To the east and west of these townhouses sit two apartment blocks facing onto residential streets, both sensitive in scale to the immediate street context, with active frontages. The creation of active streetfronts and dynamic public realm is at the heart of the proposals, and generous double height entrance lobbies with integrated high quality timber-framed glazed screens to both apartment blocks and maisonettes stimulate the facades. The decorative brick detailing uses a range of different coursing types and projecting textural brickwork, framing generous openings in the facades and helping to give the buildings rhythm and poise. This activity continues through every level of the project from the street through the recessed balconies up to the spacious maisonette and townhouse roof terraces.
The scheme demonstrates considerable sustainability credentials, not least of which is the use of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), a material that Karakusevic Carson Architects has utilised for some time. As well as dampening noise and vibrations from the railway line, CLT is airtight, enhances the thermal performance of the building and improves the acoustic performance between units. Rather than contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, CLT embodies C02, removing it from the atmosphere and storing it in the wood. The panels are produced using manufacturing processes that are low-tech and low-energy, use minimal freshwater and create zero waste. With a shorter construction period, less dust and significantly reduced noise levels, the impact on site is lessened too. Because CLT is lightweight it reduces piling, so not only cuts down on the amount of concrete used, but in the case of Bacton reduced the possibility of piling affecting ground anchors associated with the railway line’s retaining wall, thereby mitigating risk and saving money.
Other materials used were carefully chosen to enhance acoustic performance inside the buildings, with double-skin brickwork and high-performing acoustic windows to the northern facade giving further protection from the railway line. In the landscape, small brick format pavers give texture, and elegant fin-bar railings and gates with brickwork upstands offer defensible spaces to enhance the public realm. Zinc standing seam thick-gauge roof panels, which will age gracefully and marry well with the slate roofs of the surrounding context, were selected for the taller buildings, whilst the flat roofs of the townhouses and maisonettes accommodate green roofs, aiding the ecology of the area and assisting with storm-water retention. As we sought suitable, high quality and robust materials sufficient to withstand residential wear and tear, we presented samples to residents, which was useful in helping to visualise the proposals. Material consultation continued past the planning stage with regular meetings with the residents’ association and Camden’s maintenance team to review all architectural specifications. This resulted in a varied palette of five types of high quality brickwork; robust glass balustrades and generous, composite-framed Juliette balcony doors; and solid timber street entrance doors.
Whilst the new Bacton homes benefit from the high thermal performance of their materials, once phase two of the project comes forward for construction, the new estate will connect back to the Royal Free Hospital’s Combined Heat and Power network. This means that the units will benefit from waste heat generated by the hospital’s gas turbines, reducing energy consumption and bills and contributing to improving the whole-life carbon footprint of the building.
Bacton is a flagship project for Camden, a new way for them to maximise social value through cross-subsidy and create new homes whilst nurturing and enhancing the existing community. This cost neutral programme of medium-density housing will be funded by the sale of market-sale housing to help deliver the social rented and additional shared ownership housing. Importantly, the scheme has been designed to be tenure blind, with different tenures distributed across the neighbourhood, and blended in each phase.
The importance of Phase 1 of the Bacton Low Rise Estate, as much as the design and construction of its first new buildings, is the retention of its community’s trust and support. A lot of families were living on the estate, and were very keen to stay together, so by concentrating our efforts on building a large part of the development bordering the railway line first, we were able to move many families together into the Phase 1 development. This is an established community at the heart of Gospel Oak, and an incredibly valuable asset to the neighbourhood. The social stability and sustainability of this scheme hinged on the opportunity the design team has had to keep all of these families together, many of whom have had three or even four generations in the area.
The success of the project can be measured in the positive response of the residents who moved into their new homes in time for Christmas 2015, homes which are the result of an exemplary process led by them, enabling this community to thrive. With further low-rise estates due to be redeveloped in the borough, it is hoped that this demonstration of sensitivity to the community’s wishes, from where and how they are rehoused to the materials used, will be continued in future projects. We hope that the first phase of the Bacton Low Rise Estate masterplan will stand as a model of successful community led estate renewal for years to come.