Design Team: Karakusevic Carson Architects in collaboration with Witherford Watson Mann
Size and use: 150,000m² mixed-use scheme, including a creative arts space, 1,500 new homes, workshops and community facilities
Status: Planning approval granted April 2017
Awards: Winner New London Awards 2016 - Masterplans & Area Strategies Commended New London Awards 2016 - Mayor’s Prize
Hackney Wick Central is a considered masterplan and design code that will deliver 1,500 new homes, 75,000m² of arts and business space and improved public spaces to shape the future of one of London’s most dynamic and creative neighbourhoods.
This London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) project is an exemplar of public sector-led regeneration, demonstrating how the opportunities of the Olympics can act as a catalyst for investment in existing communities on the fringes of the park.
Hackney Wick forms a key piece of the LLDC’s wider vision for the Olympic Fringe, which seeks to establish a series of hard-working and bustling town centres that can cater for existing and emerging communities. The scheme has emerged from a thorough analysis and understanding of the area’s social, cultural and physical assets to ensure the future of the area builds on the strengths of what exists there today. A unique community has required a unique kind of process: one that is sensitive, intuitive and deliverable.
The site currently suffers from physical fragmentation with road, rail and canal infrastructure acting as barriers to movement, with the western area of Hackney Wick turning its back to the canal. In addition, multiple land ownerships create an obstacle to achieving a joined-up approach to development across the site.
Hackney Wick developed over time in parallel with the industrialisation of the Lower Lea Valley. It was once characterised by large scale factory yards and wharves sitting alongside residential terraces within a distinctive urban grain. This was eroded in the 20th century with the construction of the A12 and a shift away from the canal.
The former mills and plastics factories of Hackney Wick currently house over 600 businesses, becoming a focus for creative enterprise and activity in London. The area has the highest concentration of artists’ studios in Europe, as well as a mix of employment uses including small scale manufacturing and fashion. Around this highly entrepreneurial community is a lively café and arts scene, with galleries, festivals, pop-ups and restaurants.
The main challenge for the masterplan is that of bringing about improvements without destroying what is unique about the area: its industrious, creative spirit. Central to this is the assurance that the same amount of floor space will be available for business use as at present, securing the area’s future as a dynamic and ‘hard working’ centre for art, design, business and innovation. A considered workspace strategy will deliver a large provision of low cost creative studios with capped rents in perpetuity.
A mix of new uses will be introduced, enabling Hackney Wick to function as a vibrant neighbourhood centre serving the needs of surrounding communities, existing and emerging. This intensification of the site will re-introduce the mix of residential and social uses that historically characterised the area. Intelligent approaches to block typologies and mixing uses will allow new homes, light industry and other employment uses to sit side-by-side as part of a hard working urban environment, with a yard typology that allows workspace to spill out onto the street.
Overall, the masterplan seeks to harness the local character to inform the evolution of the area. One important element of this is the implementation of a design code, making sure that any development is done to a high standard and is in keeping with its surroundings. The masterplan hopes to steer development towards a coherent framework without losing that most elusive and precious of things in any city: character.
The ambitions of the project extend beyond the site boundary, seeking to stitch together the eastern and western parts of Hackney Wick by creating more public use around crossings and bridges to connect hitherto separate areas. Working closely with the range of landowners, a public realm strategy has been developed which can act as the ‘connective tissue’, linking different development phases with new routes, existing buildings and historic streets.