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FIRST LOOK

MJP Architects completes 26-storey tower in Stratford

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The mixed-use tower, Aspire Point, contains 445 rooms for Queen Mary University of London students

The scheme for Alumno Developments is sited on Stratford High Street, near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. At its lower levels, there are also two floors of artists’ studios and a café, with separate entrances for each.

Ensuite student rooms are arranged in flats with shared kitchen/dining rooms. There are also studios, ‘micro-clusters’ and some flats with shared shower rooms. Common rooms are located throughout, with communal laundry rooms adjacent to encourage further student interaction. The artists’ studios are provided in a range of sizes with high ceilings and basic finishes.

0759 sk mjp stratford hi 093

0759 sk mjp stratford hi 093

Architect’s view

The usual expectation of towers is that they will appear as slim as possible. Over about 50 storeys, this can be happen automatically by virtue of extreme height but, due to minimum viable floorplate sizes, shorter towers require other elements in their composition to achieve this aspiration.

Aspire Point has a triangular plan. This creates a distinctive landmark on the island site and, by virtue of its acute corners, the shape generates a slim profile. It avoids the problem of rectangular towers which look broader when viewed obliquely due to the hypotenuse being greater than the width of the sides. The shape also reduces overlooking of the hotels on each side, and is responsive to the angled grid of the housing behind. It works neatly with the internal planning, with three seven-room flats per floor sharing kitchen/dining rooms on each corner.

While the external form is triangular, the internal planning of the rooms is orthogonal. This has been acknowledged externally by showing it to be an assembly of rectangular elements separated by recesses. This helps the proportions and the recesses accentuate the tower’s verticality, like fluting on a classical column.

Mclayton 1808 9 alm sta 014 d hres

Mclayton 1808 9 alm sta 014 d hres

Towers are unusual in the way they are seen. They are, of course, visible from a much longer distance than lower buildings and, when viewed close up, the viewing angle to the upper storeys is unusually steep. The composition of the fenestration, therefore, transforms from a finer ‘grain’ at the lower floors to much larger scaled modules at the top. When viewed from close distance, the scale of the lower floors is similar to some shorter neighbouring buildings and ‘foreshortening’, caused by the perspective effect, visually compresses the upper floors. From a longer distance, the larger scale modules of the upper storeys increase the building’s legibility.

We exploited offsite construction techniques, more commonly associated with office buildings, to achieve fast, high-quality construction. In particular the external wall was terracotta-clad unitised curtain walling, made by Staticus in Lithuania and simply craned in. The terracotta has a lustrous ‘engobe’ finish which, rather like an engineering brick, is dark in colour but light-reflective and responsive to different lighting conditions.

Exploded axo copy

Exploded axo copy

Project data

Start on site July 2016
Completion July 2018
Gross internal floor area 16,720m²
Form of contract or procurement route Design & Build
Construction cost £38 million
Architect MJP Architects
Client Alumno Developments
Structural engineer Structa
M&E consultant Cundalls
QS RPS
Project management RPS
Main contractor HG Construction
Cladding Staticus
Frame Reddington

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