By Katherine Tobin (WSP)
With London's population continuously growing and the housing market in crisis, it is crucial that a new approach is taken to deliver the number of new homes that are needed.
Despite appearances, London has a relatively low density, therefore in order to utilise space in the urban city, building upon existing buildings provides an achievable solution.
An area of London with huge potential for this is Tower Hamlets. Despite being in a prime inner-city location and surrounded by some of the most crowded boroughs, Tower hamlets has not become as overpopulated. Therefore, the living density can be increased by building upon the existing buildings, whilst retaining the few valuable open spaces,.
As demonstrated by the London Riots in 2011, the city is at crisis point with discontent poor communities being isolated in compact areas. To prevent the continual fragmentation of society, this project looks at combining high and low cost apartments in one harmonious space and restoring a sense of community through the use of the building.
The Dorset Estate was designed by Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin in 1957 and is currently a mix of council and private apartments. The concrete building consists of two, ten storey Y-shaped buildings and was chosen not only for its interesting shape and iconic design, but also because it represents an extensive family of similar buildings constructed across London. It is intended that the development of the Dorset Estate can be used as a standard for the other similar building across the city.
An additional two floors have been designed above the existing ten storey building, with the construction material being predominantly Kerto LVL timber. This new space provides an additional 30 two or three bedroom flats per building.
The focus of the new space is an extensive roof garden, with an innovative timber bridge connecting the two buildings to bring together the two buildings and extend the communal areas. The roof garden consists of large areas of planting and seating, two play areas for children, an outdoor gym and health area and an area for community games such as bowls.
The communal outdoor areas feature a leafy green trellis roof which enhances the natural feel of the space.
The new two storeys are clad in vertical timber. The colours have been carefully selected to reflect the surrounding neighbourhood, with the honey coloured timber chosen to mirror the historic yellow brick and stone buildings in the area. This new timber cladding has been extended to cover the rectangular concrete panels on the existing building below which allows the new building to blend into the old.
Uniting nature with the new building was an important ambition of the project, and full height slender timber columns have been included around the building which, with the green canopy of the trellis, mimic the trees in the surrounding area and have a dual purpose of giving additional support for the canopy greenery.
To sustain the concept of densification, residents should be encouraged to use bicycles to get about the city. Therefore, it was deemed essential to provide adequate storage space in each apartment.