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Peter Barber resubmits Shoreditch housing project

‘Secrets, surprises and delight’ define Peter Barber Architects’ revised plans for a mixed-use housing-led scheme in the East End of London

Peter Barber Architects has submitted revised plans for the housing-led redevelopment of Fleet Street Hill in Shoreditch, east London.

The practice had first planned to build 43 affordable homes on the ‘wasteland’ site. However, the scheme was pulled from planning in November 2011 along with a controversial sister project for the nearby Huntingdon Trading Estate by Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A).

Developer Londonewcastle subsequently replaced AL_A with Robin Partington Architects and Peter Barber has come back with reworked proposals for the triangular plot next to the overground line close to Brick Lane.

The new scheme features 34 homes with a mix of tenures, start-up office units for up to 16 businesses and a community space built around a car-free public square.

Practice director Phil Hamilton said: ‘If you squint, the new scheme doesn’t look dramatically different. But it has been redrawn.

‘[Because of the changes to the linked Huntingdon Trading Estate project] the height and the density have come down.

‘This is the hardest site we have ever tackled, but we have garnered a lot of support from CABE and Tower Hamlets Conservation & Design Advisory Panel.’

It is understood the scheme has a budget of between £10-£15 million. A decision is expected on this and the ‘dovetailed’ Robin Partington tower by the end of the year. ’

Comment: Sally Lewis

Secrets, surprises, delight. That’s what this scheme is about. Once more, Barber’s trademark shaping of form creates a charming scene in an unexpected place.

Here a rich story in the midst of London’s urban grit is crafted, but we are denied the beginning, the setting up of the narrative. How do you get to this place if not by parachute? The visualisations suggest a high-end resort pretending to be a village, where people gather in sun-drenched courtyards. Despite the recent twist in weather, we know that London simply isn’t like this. What’s special about London is its extraordinary juxtaposing of shifting people, activities, structures, smells. Why not celebrate the path, the journey to this oasis? The arches – only Barber can pull this off – would be so much more poetic on a normal moody London day.

Thank goodness Barber didn’t take up CABE’s earlier suggestion for more personalisation (CABE report 26.05.2011). As in all the great London terraces that we know and love, it is only the front doors (or colourful arches) that differentiate one house from another, and when opened they will reveal the individual richness of each home beyond. This is not a scheme that has to work hard to be personable – all the ingredients for a special place are already there, and when the people move in, the job will be done.

People in my studio oohed and aahed and said ‘I would live there’ when they saw this scheme. That sounds like a success. But I’m looking forward to the real life version.

  • Sally Lewis is founding director of Stitch and author of Front to back : a design agenda for urban housing

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