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High-density homemaking: Project Orange’s ​Rathbone Market housing

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A regeneration scheme in London’s Canning Town looks to give character to individual units within a large urban housing block broken up by a collage of balconies and materials

This third phase of the Rathbone Market development, designed by Project Orange and providing 216 new homes, completed earlier this year. The whole site, planned by CZWG and developed in three phases, provides a total of 652 homes, 4,000m² of retail and 1,000m² of office space over an area of 1.56ha at a net density of 418 units per hectare, with 25 per cent affordable. The majority of apartments have been bought by a private residential sector (PRS) landlord, while Notting Hill Housing Association operates the affordable homes.

The site is part of the London Borough of Newham and is situated in a former docklands area to the north side of the river Thames. The building is bounded to the south by the busy A13 – meaning additional challenges to mitigate noise and pollution – and to the north and east by existing housing backing on to the High Street. A new pedestrian square to the west links the building to phases 1 and 2. 

170912 po rathbonemarket 027

170912 po rathbonemarket 027

Architect’s view

We felt the challenge was to design a building that has a sense of place, that is approachable and is somewhere to call home. The strategy called out for three linked blocks that sit in a ‘C’ configuration, open to the southerly aspect with the four residential cores accessed from a garden. All ground floor apartments are two-storey, with generous four-metre tall ceilings, their own front doors and back gardens onto the courtyard garden contributing to the lively neighbourhood experience.

Our design ensured that there was a democratic single entrance with a concierge for all residents. They can then access the lift and stair cores via daylit, double-height, brick-clad hallways approached through the garden. Private back doors connect into the cores as well as the cycle and refuse storage. We collaborated with Churchman Landscape Architects to design the landscape, which we saw more as an undulating pocket park than a formal piece of urbanism. A mature oak tree sits at the heart of the design, from which paths branch out to each entrance from an axial route that terminates in a planted moon gate incorporating a vertical playspace. Rainwater is captured at roof level and slowly drained into rills laced through the courtyard garden, reflecting the dynamic expression of the building’s drainage system within the landscape. There is also a community allotment on the lowest roof.

161110 muse rathbonemarket jackhobhouse 012

161110 muse rathbonemarket jackhobhouse 012

Source: Jack Hobhouse

The massing of the project is of a completely different scale to the neighbouring traditional housing: it is urban, massive and robust. In order to give scale and detail to the building we sought to erode the form, creating an informal profile at roof level. The façade is a cascading composition of windows, balconies and panel elements that allow for a multitude of conditions and expressions. The inner façades of the courtyard are clad in a collage of pale bricks and bronze metal panels that reflect the light, while the outer skin is of textured grey brick offering a more rugged surface to the external faces of the building. The layouts within are a mixture of one, two and three bedroom apartments, all of which have a balcony or terrace.

The building therefore is a collection of materials and motifs in a patchwork that is vibrant, colourful and dynamic. We believe that such well planned and innovative architecture will assist in making Canning Town a thriving community.

James Soane, director, Project Orange

14. ground floor plan annotated copy

14. ground floor plan annotated copy

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site December 2014
Completion April 2017
Gross internal floor area 18,000m²
Construction cost £41 million
Construction Cost per m² £2,300
Form of contract Design and Build with contracted based on RIBA Stage E information
Architect Project Orange
Client English Cities Fund
Structural engineer Ramboll
M&E consultant Hilson Moran
QS Rider Levett Bucknall
Main contractor John Sisk & Son
Landscape architect Churchman Landscape Architects
Acoustic consultant Sharps Redmore
Project manager Buro Four
Public consultation Local Dialogue LLP
Planning consultant Longboard Consulting
Estate management Trinity Estate Management
Lighting consultant Studio Fractal

CDM coordinator Rider Levett Bucknall
Approved building inspector Premier Guarantee Surveyors
CAD software used Vectorworks

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