By Shotaro Oshima & Yuto Fujii
We consider post-war housing blocks in London essential part of the urban landscape, due to its contrasting form/language compared to other ‘period’ architecture that remain in the city. The juxtaposition and the depth of layers that exist defines the authenticity of London, and our proposal seeks to re-familiarise and enhance the importance of such architectural typology within the environment we inhabit in by introducing a dynamic timber structure extension that emerge from an existing Council Block, Telfer House.
As part of UK’s strategic planning, densities are added to the suburbs of London, making the city’s boundary expand and pushing affordable living further outwards from the urban core. However, with inner London also sought as potential areas to improve, due to its relative low density compared to its recent past, there is still room for great opportunities to respond to the existing urban landscape which in some places appear fractured, fragmented and under-utilised. The post-war council estates are attractive from re-development point of view as the sites are not privately owned, but many of the blocks are endangered to become victims of the ‘scrap and build’ mentality that London has been implementing for providing new housing quickly. It is a common sight now to witness these architecture being demolished to be replaced by another set of cheap, quick-fix solutions where many of them are simple extrusions of space zoning exercise cladded in economical cladding material. Our proposal seeks to advocate a counter-strategy to this situation to enable us review London from another perspective, and to introduce a ‘progressive-minded’ alternative idea (which the principles could be implemented elsewhere) that values the evolving unique picture and history of this great city.
Applying the principles of Japanese cantilever joinery and maximising the flexibility that the Kerto elements offer, we developed a structural strategy that enables dynamic three-dimensional extension that grows out of the load-bearing elements of the existing linear volume of Telfer House. The building extends outwards beyond the site in places, utilising the benefit of being part of a macro-site that is of King Square Estate. The ‘streets in the sky’ concept advocated by the Smithsons are reinterpreted here with a timber walkway that forms a bridge between the new development and the centrally located King Square Gardens, allowing the visually disconnected site become integral part of the local community.
The architecture questions the basic principles of gentrified redevelopment that can be seen in London now. Challenging the developer-led-notion that a simple extrusion of the footprint of each site is the most time/cost/space efficient way of improving the urban density. The proposal intends to deal with the values shared by such schemes but also carefully considers the essence of quality of life and community building, elements that we feel are becoming diluted due to the perceived severe nature of the housing crisis. We believe that the use of pre-fabricated/engineered wooden structure is a key contributor that enables such concept be realised.