A new generation of architects, unafraid to experiment with the advantages of prefabrication and a systems approach to housing, is our best hope of bringing fresh design standards to the social housing sector. The approach is exemplified in a proposal by the young practice Cartwright Pickard (see People, page 28), in a scheme for Peabody Housing Trust in Murray Grove, Hackney, due to start this autumn.
Working with Yorkon and contractor Kajima, the practice has opted for maximum pre-assembly and off-site work, keeping reliance on labour to a minimum, cutting waste and increasing speed of production. Yorkon will produce a unit under factory conditions before going into full production.
The scheme comprises 30 one- and two-bedroom flats on a corner site. Parking is kept to a minimum (the scheme is near the Tube). A south-facing communal landscaped space, sheltered from traffic noise, provides a focus for the scheme. Living rooms and bedrooms look out on this space, while kitchens, bathrooms and dining areas form a buffer zone. In its form and scale, this is urban housing light years away from the buildings which gave prefabrication a bad name.
. . . and showing howto cross a divide
This second scheme by Cartwright Pickard is 'one that got away', but the ideas explored are being put to good use in an alternative scheme for a nearby site. Won in competition, this college for contemporary music incorporates teaching facilities, practice rooms, a 500-seat auditorium, offices and a restaurant. The site, to put it mildly, presented problems: next to a railway track, it spans either side of the elevated section of the M40 by Westbourne Park Station in West London. The seemingly intractable problem of a site divided by a motorway has been approached with an undeniable elegance in this proposal, which makes a virtue out of the necessities of use and location.
An exercise in acoustic separation, the noisiest areas are separted from quieter classrooms and administration spaces, which have the best views. The noisier internalised spaces face north towards the rail tracks, providing an acoustic buffer to the high noise levels from InterCity trains. Circulation is based on two daylit atria which double as foyers during concerts, and which also provide acoustic separation between practice rooms and teaching areas.
Spectacular elements in the scheme include the shafts of light projected into the sky, and top-lit circular staircases with integral hydraulic lifts at each end of the building. The auditorium itself lies at the heart of a scheme which would have provided a landmark for the uk rock industry.