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Go-ahead for Ollier Smurthwaite's super-green Leeds housing district

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Ollier Smurthwaite Architects has won approval for the latest 204-home phase of developer Citu’s proposed £125 million super-green eco-village in Leeds  

The scheme will create a mix of homes on the former Hydro Aluminum site and sits within Citu’s emerging Climate Innovation District next to the River Aire and close to the Royal Armouries.

An earlier 312-home phase across the river, designed by Nick Brown Architects, is already under construction, and there are also plans for a new footbridge linking the sites drawn up by Gagarin Studio which has yet to be submitted.

The Ollier Smurthwaite development will feature the low-carbon, prefabricated timber panel system Citu House, which will be built in a factory across Clarence Road – a retrofit of an existing plant by Fletcher Crane.  

The homes will use a ‘unique digital platform’ allowing homeowners to control energy remotely via their desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. As well as using recycled and sustainable construction materials, the development will boast a community-owned utility company with a private wire network for electricity and energy storage.

Approved by Leeds City Council last week (6 October), the Climate Innovation District has been masterplanned by White Arkitekter and forms part of the wider South Bank Leeds regeneration plans.

The first residents are due to occupy their homes in early 2017 with final completion set for 2022.

Cid document overall masterplan red line

Cid document overall masterplan red line

The architect’s view

Set on the bank of the River Aire on a former industrial site, Phase 2 aims to provide a high-quality residential development that addresses site-specific circumstances rather than imposing a standardised design, while factoring a number of design constraints including: an inherent flood risk; a desire to create car-free public spaces; the provision of a riverside public garden; re#linking the site to its surroundings and providing access to the river; creating low-carbon housing with modern construction methods; and a desire for a new type of communal intergenerational living.

The framework for the proposals has been developed with the concept of creating a new topography on the river bank, both lifting the dwellings above the flood risk and providing hidden spaces for car parking and commercial functions.

The new landscape can then be occupied by a variety of dwelling types, each influenced by historical architectural precedents ranging from the Yorkshire village to the taller buildings of contemporary Leeds. Free of roads the new dwellings are set among landscaped shared gardens and squares providing spaces for community gatherings and interaction. The character of those spaces is defined by different approaches to place making:

  • New semi-detached cottages draw inspiration from the traditional Yorkshire villages. A less ordered layout creates varied courtyard spaces between the buildings while the houses offer interesting and changing outlooks through a ‘twisted’ layout that spirals up the levels.
  • New terraced maisonettes are arranged in linear blocks with tiered communal landscapes between. The dwellings all benefit from a southerly aspect and are also dual aspect, making the most of the outlooks across the shared gardens.
  • Once working buildings, many of Leeds’ mills and warehouses have been converted to residential use. New warehouse-style buildings front on to the main road and serve as a reminder of the site’s industrial heritage. The new warehouse volumes are carved into a variety of one, two, three and four bedroom dwellings in forms that retain the scale and massing of industrial sheds.
  • A new landmark building is envisaged to introduce a critical mass of residents and allow for part of the site to be opened up and devoted to a public green next to the river for the enjoyment of the wider community. The landmark building is split in two to provide greater permeability: the front half consists of duplex apartments with south-facing balconies looking over the public green; while the remaining portion turns to face east and west with views out to Leeds city centre and distant hills.

Ollier Smurthwaite's plans for the 204-home second phase of developer Citu’s proposed £125million Climate Innovation District

Ollier Smurthwaite’s plans for the 204-home second phase of developer Citu’s proposed £125million Climate Innovation District

Riverside view



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