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Contest finalists explore post-Grenfell options for Portsmouth estate

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Finalists in a Portsmouth housing ideas competition have outlined a range of options to ensure social housing is prioritised following the Grenfell fire

Three teams were selected by Project Compass to participate in a three-day workshop focusing on the site of two city-centre residential tower blocks – Leamington House and Horatio House – which have been scheduled for demolition amid safety concerns following the Grenfell disaster.

The participants set out a range of options to ensure the number and quality of social housing units could be maintained and enhanced in similar situations where post-Grenfell safety issues necessitated large-scale redevelopment.

The Portsmouth Phoenix competition workshop was open to architects and planners aged 40 and under, and was held University of Portsmouth School of Architecture in early March just months before the three-year anniversary of Grenfell.

The finalist schemes – Outdoor Living, Archipelago and Leamington Lanes – were presented to residents of the estate which neighbours the architecture school. Participants received mentorship from Bell Phillips Architects, Mikhail Riches, Proctor & Matthews Architects, RCKa and Ruth Butler Architect.

The ‘Outdoor Living’ group included Sophie Saarinen of Noviun, Nicholas Francis from ECE Architecture, Richard Harrison of Snug Architects, Catherine Bartlett of Stride Treglown, Ian Collier from Atkins, and Stephanie Wyant and Alexandra Thomas, both MArch 2 students.

The ’Archipelago’ team featured Natalie Barton of Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, Ramon Sharff from Platform Archi, Tessa Baird of OEB Architects, Tracey Pitt of Southampton City Council, Russell Everton from Nagan Johnson, Luis Leitao of Atkins, and Thomas Nock and Josh Rowland, both MArch 2 students.

The ‘Leamington Lanes’ meanwhile comprised Lucy Uren of Architect Studio Gedye, Tyler Holdcroft from Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt, Fiona Rogoff of Stride Treglown, Russell Gould from Noviun, Viet Nguyen of Wood, Thomas Huddleston from Atkins, and Isabel Clay and Carl Richardson, both MArch 2 students.

In its brief, Project Compass said the towers, Leamington House and Horatio House, ‘have had their cladding stripped and been evacuated, post-Grenfell. Following survey investigations, the towers are now scheduled for demolition – leaving the city’s housing stock reduced, although social housing demand continues to rise.

‘This new housing paradigm establishes the context for The Portsmouth Phoenix competition […] This unique design masterclass will provide a matchless opportunity to explore exemplary and sustainable future urban housing, engaging the public while contributing knowledge towards the site’s development.’

Portsmouth is experiencing a surge in its population, which has placed increased pressure on the availability of high-quality housing at affordable prices. The city is home to a major port and naval base and has a population of 205,400 with a greater density than that of London.

The workshop was held three years after Project Compass held an ‘elephant cage’ competition focusing on ways to improve a series of proposed sea defences surrounding Portsmouth. Representing 18 hours of core CPD, the workshop included a site visit, team composition session, evening social, design development day with lectures, interim reviews and final presentations.

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Readers' comments (4)

  • Please take the opportunity to restore the old street network and frontages. Portsmouth is such a chaos. It just needs some more simple clear streets

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  • It would be interesting to know exactly why Leamington House and Horatio house are now seen as beyond salvation.

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  • Robert, FYI.
    After the Grenfell type ACM cladding was removed forensic investigations of the structure were undertaken to evaluate the construction. In short summary - it was found that the 1965 ‘Bison’ panel pre-cast concrete construction system did not meet current engineering standards, that elements fell significantly short and for example concrete cover on reinforcement in some floor slabs was woeful because the original construction quality had been so poor.

    An engineered remediation design was reputedly deemed unviable although these reports were not uncovered on accessible portals and were not therefore scrutinised. While it might have been interesting to review factors contributing to the viability of remediation, given the serious findings the blocks were both decanted with the net loss of 272 social housing units, (in a city, like so many, with a dearth of such property).

    We could not find any record of comparable investigative testing of other ‘Bison’ system blocks in the city, and would be interested to know about any other such unforseen consequences from this disaster, and whats happening elsewhere across the country in this respect. It seems difficult to find!

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  • Thanks for the information - and on the subject of unforeseen consequences, could it be that as one lid closes another one opens?
    The media are reporting on the delays in rectifying hazardous cladding around the country, and people of my age might think that in all the years since the Ronan Point disaster the structural problems associated with multi storey heavy precast panel systems had long been addressed by either demolition or remedial repair.
    If post-Grenfell remediation is uncovering historic structural defects then the apparent lack of awareness of the scale of this across the country - and its impact on social housing provision - could open a whole new can of worms.

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