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Q for housing

aj building study

Buckley Gray's Q Building at Stratford in east London is its first new build project, providing light, open apartments and a contribution to the changing local urban fabric

The context yet-to-come is important for Buckley Gray's Q Building, a development of new flats-for-sale at Stratford in east London. According to the developer's brochure blurb, they enjoy 'a now fashionable east London postcode', three miles from the City, and two miles from Canary Wharf. All 27 apartments are already sold. Indeed, Stratford does appear to be living up to the hype of an up-and-coming area. From Wilkinson Eyre's Stratford Station (AJ 17.6.99) you pass Burrell Foley Fischer's Picture House, and at its rear is a square yet to be built. Around it, alongside the Picture House, are Levitt Bernstein's Stratford Circus for performing arts, a bulky steel-framed building construction, a gap site, an old industrial premises and the west facade of the Q Building.What this square becomes remains to be seen.

The south face of the Q Building dog-legs down the narrow Salway Place, another principal facade, looking across to buildings that are expected to be replaced, probably with higher ones, so creating more of a canyon.

Emerging from Salway Place onto the broad high street, The Grove, the third facade, on the east, is the entrance front. It sits among low-budget '60s and '70s buildings - but for how long? Typically, these are plain, two to three-storey structures, with strip windows and flat roofs. The Q Building sits remarkably well here, its five storeys (a limit set by the planners) made less prominent by a different treatment of the bar/cafe and entrance on the ground floor and the set-back of the top floor apartments. (The west facade is similarly treated. The ground floor retail space was only completed to shell stage by Buckley Gray. ) Richard Buckley feels sleek building skins are insubstantial and particularly inappropriate in a context of mixed ages and styles.

True to his word, the facades of the Q Building are busily layered. So while all the flats have floor-to-ceiling glazing, as did the apartments in Glenn Howells' Timber Wharf (AJ 6.02.03), the conspicuous openness there is here obscured from the outside - though it is much more strongly apparent from inside.

On the east and west facades some spaces are simply glazed and some areas partially obscured with movable iroko screens on anodised aluminium framing. Some panels are opaque timber (in front of bedrooms that have side windows onto balconies) or stack-bonded blockwork, keeping the rectangular rhythm of the facade (in front of the escape stair). Balconies create further layering. This is more about urban presence than protective privacy. The completely open glazing is only to living rooms, but the moveable screens with horizontal slats to bedrooms turn transparent at night when rooms are lit. (All glazing has internal louvre blinds. ) To the south, too, where large, fixed aeroplane-wing-section aluminium louvres move up a scale, their role is primarily gestural, with only four blades per floor. Privacy and solar protection from these are partial.

In some buildings, particularly high-tech ones, the grain of the exterior continues inside, with exposed concrete or chunky metal. Here the opposite is true. The close attention to crafting details characteristic of interior design continues to the outside.

Junctions are part of the aesthetic but discreet; there is no celebration of fixings here.

Mitres, you can run your hand across. Looking up at the corner of the framing to the louvres on the south facade, which begins just overhead, director in charge Matt Yeoman told me, 'We sketched that view' - keen that everything should bear close inspection.

Further up this facade with its narrow access walkways, glass balustrades slide seamlessly into rebates in the louvre blades.

Externally, the entrance appears an appropriately scaled marker, taking up a whole ground floor bay. In fact, most of the width is stainless steel service doors with glass doors to the right leading into a narrower lobby, with mailboxes, the lift and well-lit stairs beyond.

And so up to the flats proper on the first to fourth floors.With the one and two-bedroom flats arrayed behind the three facades, the access corridor follows the party wall. Fortunately, the adjoining building is only single-storey, so Buckley Gray has been able to introduce some animation to these long corridors with horizontal slit windows at each apartment level. Plastered and painted white throughout, it feels almost bland after the busy facade, and this continues into the halls of each flat, although no doubt personalisation will soon make a difference there.

Beyond, the simple flat plans may suggest box-like repetition, until you register the impact of the floor-to-ceiling glazing in all the principal rooms. It focuses and opens every room it touches. From the inside, the louvres and the occasional circular column are hardly noticeable.

Walls and ceilings are plastered. A Slimfloor-like construction was used, which produces 50mm beam downstands in places.

But a virtue has been made of this necessity.

Beam soffits occur away from windows and have been masked by creating much broader downstand areas, 100-150mm deep, spreading out from an adjacent wall. They give greater definition to room shapes and paradoxically, rather than the downstand areas feeling low, the rest of the space feels higher towards the light of the window.

Some good quality bathroom and kitchen fittings have been afforded, helped by economies of scale. As the plans show, there is exact repetition in each flat of the line of kitchen fitments, the service cupboard and the bathroom. Both kitchen area and bathroom feel larger for the absence of ceramic tiles with their multiple joints, replaced by a hospital theatre paint finish.

It is too simplistic to judge these flats by their ready sale - good new housing is in short supply; £175,000 for the smallest unit of this quality is not unusual for central(ish) London; and the rise of Stratford promises asset value growth. Rather, it is the improvement Buckley Gray has brought to the urban fabric that counts, and the creation of city housing that looks forward with style.

Costs

This analysis is based on the tender sum

SUBSTRUCTURE FOUNDATIONS/SLABS £74.50/m 2 Earthworks, piling and RC basement

SUPERSTRUCTURE FRAME £75.03/m 2 Steel frame and precast concrete columns

UPPER FLOORS £44.02/m 2 Steel decking and concrete floors

ROOF £30.17/m 2 Roof membranes and insulation.Rainwater goods

ROOFLIGHTS £0.67/m 2 Smoke vents

STAIRCASES £15.94/m 2

Precast staircases and balustrade screens

EXTERNAL WALLS £148.66/m 2 External screens/ walkways, cladding, concrete cladding units, louvres

WINDOWS £68.02/m 2 Aluminium sliding doors, bespoke timber windows

EXTERNAL DOORS £7.78/m 2 Stainless steel doors and glazed entrance

INTERNAL WALLS AND PARTITIONS £48.62/m 2 Studwork and blockwork walls

INTERNAL DOORS £31.77/m 2 Doors, frames and ironmongery

INTERNAL FINISHES WALL FINISHES £23.24/m 2 Painting and wallglaze, woodstaining

FLOOR FINISHES £26.89/m 2 Carpeting, timber floors, slate entrance, decking

CEILING FINISHES £26.72/m 2 Plasterboard, painting, joinery

FITTINGS AND FURNISHINGS FURNITURE £ 57.58/m 2 Blinds, kitchens, vanity units, sanitaryware

SERVICES SERVICES INSTALLATIONS £10.42/m 2 Services equipment, disposal

MECHANICAL/ PLUMBING SERVICES £51.39/m 2 Water, above ground drainage, air extracts

ELECTRICAL/ COMMUNICATION SERVICES £75.90 /m

CREDITS

TENDER DATE March 2001

START ON SITE DATE August 2001

CONTRACT DURATION 65 weeks

GROSS EXTERNAL FLOOR AREA 463m 2 footprint

CONTRACT JCT 98 With Quantities

TOTAL COST £2,660,253

CLIENT East London Developments

ARCHITECT Buckley Gray: Matt Yeoman, Richard Buckley, Mark Clarke, Dave Lomax

QUANTITY SURVEYOR Gardner Cann Partnership

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER ADS Associates

SERVICES ENGINEER Engineering Design Consultants

PLANNING SUPERVISOR Vance Miller Planning Supervisor

MAIN CONTRACTOR Durkan Pudelek

SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS Aluminium cladding, aluminium louvres, sliding timber screens ALPS-Colt; aluminium glazing Architectural Aluminium Systems; stainless steel cladding City Aluminium; precast concrete cladding Mooncrete; timber windows ARB Joinery; steelwork 4-Bay Structures; steel floor decking Richard Lees; precast floors and staircases Milbank Floors; lift installation Pickerings; plumbing, mechanical services Lindsey; electrical servicesMJ Webber; staircase screens AMPS Fabrications; floor finishes Premier Flooring; kitchen, bathroom joinery Vantage; doors Leaderflush & Shapland; letterboxes Imagineering; fall arrest systems Safesite; blinds Levolux; ironmongery Higrade; piling May Gurney; roofing Belmont Roofing; lighting Iguzzini; signage JJ Interiors

WEBLINKS

East London Developments www. imperialdevelopments. com

Buckley Gray www. buckleygray. com

ADS Associates www. adsassociates. co. uk

Engineering Design Consultants www. engdesign. co. uk

Durkan Pudelek www. durkan. co. uk

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