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Ian Simpson wins planning for Canary Wharf tower scheme

[First look] Ian Simpson Architects has won ‘unanimous’ consent for a 31-storey housing-led scheme for Londonewcastle and European Investments in Canary Wharf, east London

The Dollar Bay project features a ‘crystalline’ tower housing 121 homes, and a separate six to eight storey block in Thomas Street, providing a further 64 flats.

The 18,970m2 skyscraper at the eastern end of the West India and Millwall Dock on the Isle of Dogs includes a residents’ cinema, basement car parking and a ‘double-skin, winter-garden zone’, allowing all the apartments to have ‘large protected semi-outdoor amenity space’.

Ian Simpson, lead partner of Ian Simpson Architects, said : ‘Dollar bay is a beautiful elegant and unique building which terminates the vista along the dock, providing spacious and light homes with dramatic views of Canary Wharf. This will be a special and distinctive building and a significant addition to the London skyline.’

A development timescale is not yet known.

Previous story (AJ 14.10.11)

Ian Simpson wins planning for Canary Wharf tower scheme

[First look] Ian Simpson Architects has revealed these images of a housing-led, high-rise scheme in Canary Wharf, east London

The proposals for developer Londonewcastle feature a 31-storey ‘crystalline’ tower on the Dollar Bay site, providing 121 homes, and a separate six to eight storey block in Thomas Street, providing a further 64 flats.

The 18,970m2 skyscraper at the eastern end of the West India and Millwall Dock on the Isle of Dogs includes a ‘double-skin, winter-garden zone’, allowing all the apartments to have ‘large protected semi-outdoor amenity space’.

Design Council CABE has welcomed this high-rise element of the proposals, describing the 108m-tall tower as ‘elegant’ and commending the internal arrangement of the building.

However it was more critical of the affordable housing on the Thomas Road scheme, in particular aspects of over-looking (see CABE full report at bottom).

Plans were submitted for the project in late July and public consultation has recently closed (see full plans here).

The architect’s view of the tower

‘We’ve striven to create a proposal that responds to the potential of the changing nature of the site while enhancing the setting of the conservation area. The proposals achieve this by providing a slender urban marker that will terminate the eastern vista down the dock. The form of the tower is composed of two angled forms one addressing the western vista down the dock the other smaller form addressing the eastern axis to the O2 Arena.

The thin tower provides an elegant vertical counterpoint to the horizontal Glenn Terrace

The building will enhance the conservation area by allowing the site to be opened up, generating an improved public realm, better views across the site, and more daylight resulting from less dense tree foliage. The thin tower provides an elegant vertical counterpoint to the horizontal Glenn Terrace when seen from the south east whilst also marking the eastern edge of the Isle of Dogs cluster extended from Canary Wharf by the Wood Wharf proposals.

‘The tower responds strongly to the east – west axis running through the site to provide its broadest face to these two aspects to not only optimise views in these directions but also: to minimise north facing accommodation; to minimise the extent of south facing facades and to move the bulk of the building as far as possible from Glen Terrace. The plan form responds to its accommodation with the larger units located in the larger western element offering apartments with three aspects. Smaller apartments are located in the eastern element, with double aspect units. The arrangement minimises the number of single aspect apartments reducing them to the studios only.

The two forms are joined at the internal circulation corridor and lift lobby. This element is expressed as a glazed shadow gap recessed between the two forms and offering natural ventilation and light to the internal corridor. The separation of the building into two forms not only allows the composition to address the two particular aspects of the site but also creates a more slender well proportioned elevation to the north and south. Each form is based on a simple rectilinear plan inclined along the short axis towards the central recessed joint. This gives the impression that each block is pulling away from the other creating a dynamic which reinforces the idea that each block is facing a different direction.

It feels like a flow of lava between two powerful strong statuesque pillars of crystal

The plan forms are extruded vertically with repeating floor plates however the top is terminated with an incline in section away from the joint line elongating the main axial elevation and piercing the skyline with an appropriate elegant profile. The base of each form has a similar incline away from the central joint down to a point on the eastern and western limits of the forms this generates the effect of the tower resting on two corners an effect which is given further drama by the location of two reflecting pools so the tower appears to hover. This gesture effectively widens the joint as it approaches the ground and is intended to be a fissure between the two pure crystalline forms of the tower. This contrast is given further emphasis by faceting and coloring the glass cladding of the joint so that it feels like a flow of lava between two powerful strong statuesque pillars of crystal.

The apartment layouts are orientated to either the east or west elevations of the building. The main living spaces can be extended into a double skin zone of a winter-garden which means that all apartments benefit from a large protected semi-outdoor amenity space. The whole west and east facades of the buildings are therefore clad in a double skin containing the winter-gardens. The double skin helps improve the environmental performance of the building with the outer skin being weather-tight but open-able for natural ventilation. On the west this façade is folded with a series of gentle vertical inclines starting at 1 storey in height at low level increasing to 4 storeys in height at the upper levels. This device gives the building a unique and distinctive image and is a reference to a cascade of water, speeding as it falls, as a response to the context of axial foreground of dock water.  The alternating folds provider differing reflections of either sky or water a give a pronounced horizontal order to the building which helps control the scale of the tower.

The north and south facades have integrated insulated solid panels with minimal double glazed full height windows providing slot windows to the mainly solid facades. These facades are clad in unitized SSG cladding system finished with a white dot matrix to reinforce the overall crystalline form with an opalescent emphasis to the thinner north and south elevations. T

Design Council CABE’s design review - full comments

Planning reference: PA/11/01945 and PA/11/01944

The proposed tower strikes us as an elegant building that fits well into the context. We are less convinced by the affordable housing element on the Thomas Road. While we support it in principle, the quality of the building seems undermined by the angled layout. The public space around both buildings could be further improved.

Tall building
We support the height of the tower and its location at the end of the dock.
The proposal will work well with the emerging tall buildings around West India Dock and we think that it has the potential to be a positive contribution to Canary Warf. We commend the internal arrangement of the building, for example the day lit corridors and the generous flat layouts. The complex, crystalline design of the tower will require great care in terms of detailing to bring the folded glass of the winter gardens on the western side and the eastern elevation together successfully. The local authority should condition details and materials as appropriate.

Public space around the tall building

We are pleased to see that the proposal offers generous external amenity space for residents and a public terrace overlooking the dock, but we think that the space provided along the waterfront is very narrow; this is exacerbated by the overhang of the tower and the proposed canopy which will conflict with the trees on the quay. If pushing the tower further away from the dock is not possible, the ground floor could be rearranged to accommodate a larger and more generous terrace. We urge the local authority to ensure themselves that the provision of the canopy makes the conditions at the base of the tower acceptable in terms of wind. While we find the garden between the proposed tower and Glenn Terrace successful – it provides pleasant private spaces and a well-designed boundary to the terrace – we are less convinced by the proposed arrival square at the southern end of the site which appears as a car park rather than a welcoming pedestrian environment. The ancillary buildings in the service yard do not match the design quality of the tower.

Thomas Road site

While the proposed layout based on the two angled blocks offers a number of advantages – we commend the high proportion of through flats and their generous planning – it also generates problems for both the external and internal spaces. This arrangement has a negative impact on over-looking and privacy issues for the flats directly adjacent to the junction. We question whether the benefits in terms of widening the open space towards the canal really outweigh this disadvantage. The opening on Thomas Road is not wide enough to draw a large number of people into the site. In addition, the current arrangement creates an oddly shaped outdoor area, which sits uncomfortably between the proposal and the western site boundary. We also suggest simplifying this area as currently, it appears over-complex and it could benefit from a more flexible and adaptable design. We question whether the subdivision into public garden and residents’ garden is helpful and whether there is a more successful way for the ground floor spaces to engage with the canal.

Tenure mix

The client is clearly committed to providing good quality affordable accommodation, and we are pleased to see that intermediate flats are offered on the Thomas Road site and that affordable flats are included in the tower. While we support the proposed solution, we believe that the Thomas Road site could take more quantum provided that it is carefully handled, perhaps with shared entrances, and we suggest adding additional market flats. We also question whether the main site at the docks could take more affordable housing, perhaps by using the area of the ancillary buildings more intensively. 

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