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Proctor & Matthews ‘disappointed’ to be replaced as Thamesmead goes D&B


Proctor & Matthews Architects has said it is ‘naturally disappointed’ after it was replaced on the design and build contract to deliver the first phase of Peabody’s £1.5 billion Thamesmead estate overhaul

The practice worked with Dutch-headquartered Mecanoo on Southmere Village, a 525-home scheme that secured detailed planning consent three years ago.

However, Hertfordshire-based contractor Durkan was awarded a design and build contract for the project and brought in north London-based Fourpoint Architects. The project started on site late last year.

Stephen Proctor, founding director of Proctor & Matthews, told the AJ: ’We are naturally disappointed to no longer be involved on the project.

’While we appreciate decisions are often made for a variety of reasons, we would welcome a wider debate on how the architect can retain a role to ensure the quality of the design and the original design intent is maintained.

’In order to meet the proposed push towards design quality it is crucial to create design continuity from concept to completion and at Proctor & Matthews Architects we are very keen to find ways to achieve this.’

Proposals for Southmere Village drawn up by Proctor & Matthews and Mecanoo included 3,716m² of commercial space. The buildings, centred around a new public square on the banks of Southmere Lake, were mainly clad in brick in response to local residents’ desire for the new structures to contrast with the concrete of the 1960s estate.

Proctor & Matthews also designed a civic building housing a library, nursery and gym to act as a social hub and focal point of the square.

Four planning applications were approved by the London Borough of Bexley in October 2016, paving the way for more than 1,500 new homes and kickstarting the first major development in Thamesmead since Peabody acquired the land in 2014. 

The consented applications consisted of detailed plans for the civic-led Southmere Village along with outline plans for three other development areas, known as Binsey Walk, Coralline Walk and Sedgemere Road. 

All four sites sit inside the boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich’s Thamesmead Housing Zones and will be served by the new Crossrail station at Abbey Wood.

Durkan managing director Jim Briggs said: ’We’re delighted to be working with Peabody to deliver this exciting new development for the capital. At Durkan, we’re conscious of the need for new homes and living spaces in London and it’s our priority to deliver sustainable communities that help to address this.

’We’re looking forward to helping Peabody deliver on its proposals for Thamesmead, in what will doubtless add long-term value to a growing community.’


Construction work started at Thamesmead, built on top of the Erith and Plumstead Marshes, in the 1960s and was funded by the now-abolished Greater London Council. At the time, it was hailed for its futuristic Modernist and Brutalist design, including elevated walkways. The threat of flooding required all habitable rooms to be built on the first floor. However, over the years the estate has been blighted with problems like anti-social behaviour and vandalism.

The area has a strong cultural history, having been used as a setting for a number of films and television programmes – perhaps most notably for Stanley Kubrick’s film, A Clockwork Orange.


Readers' comments (9)

  • Peabody should give Proctor & Matthews a side contract to report on the maintenance of design quality throughout the contract, so that client and public get what they thought they would get when planning permission was granted. Judging by the weasel words of the contractor, the change of architect has nothing to do with an ambition to make the design better. P&M have been very diplomatic, but have every right not merely to be disappointed, but to be bloody furious.

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  • I agree with Paul Finch as I have been in a similar position on a number of projects which I achieved planning for. I would be furious and the client is being seen as disrespectful for their own personal gains.

    Hope they have design copyright in place that the client/contractor pay extra for the use of it.

    Its the deep flaw with the D+B contract it is the cheapest and easiest option however there is a huge tendency to have serious design compromises and value engineering which tends to dumb down the end product.

    The planning permission/process needs to iterate that the build has to be as per the planning drawings to ensure that the design quality is produced in the end product no dumbed down.

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  • Peabody used to be pathfinders for quality in architecture. D & B should stand for dumbing-down & brutalising.

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  • Why were they not novated by Peabody? Something not quite right here.

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  • John Kellett

    When will clients realise that D+B cannot deliver the best building as more work is needed by design teams to reach an end result so, in order to compensate the quality has to drop? Retaining design teams throughout a project is the most cost effective method every time. A technique I call “Design then Build”. By all means involve the chosen contractor before Stage 5 in order to play to their strengths and any buildability / programming advice they can add. D&B was ‘invented’ to make money for contractors NOT meet client’s needs and is better suited to speculative rather than bespoke projects. Paul Finch is spot on as ever.

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  • Industry Professional

    This is simply the new normal.
    Without legislation and/or an active and aggressive line by local authorities regarding enforcement over the detail of permissions, projects will continue to be dumbed down by D&B contractors struggling to make a margin on their cut throat tenders. They will be assisted by implementation architects who are not invested in the original design and are obviously swayed in their decision making due to their dependence on the contractor for their fees.

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  • What seems to be misunderstood in the comments is that whether its Proctor Matthews novated or Fourpoint working for the contractor, the imperative on quality in D&B is with the contractor rather than the client.
    Its highly unusual in such scenarios for an adequate Employers Requirements to have been provided to enable adequate control, as the client will not wish to pay the original architect to do a full, old school, stage E. And the contractor will not have been required to submit the equivalent of Stage E in his tender contractors proposals to enable standards to be negotiated and fixed in the tender. I hope I'm wrong in the this and the converse is the case. Durkan will have had to dumb down in order to win the tender and then later to put a profit back on it. You cannot fault them for this, its the scenario Peabody's naivety has set in motion.
    So it all ends up like Churchill placing Montgomery under Rommel's command on the eve of El Alamein. Pure insanity. Peabody have entered a lottery. They will get the result they deserve. Good or, more likely, not as good or bad. Unfortunately for Peabody very few if any housing architects have the skill to achieve the detailed design quality that Proctor Matthews consistently achieve when they continue through all stages of design realisation.

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  • A note to Paul Finch. Unless the employers requirements in the contract are sufficiently strong in defining what is required, usually a full old school stage E set of prototype detail requirements, and the contractor has not been allowed to circumvent or dilute them in his contractors proposals at tender stage, there will be insufficient contractual requirements to enable an Employers Representative Architect to have adequate control and influence. They can only work within the terms of the contract.

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  • Look on the bright side, the end product should provide another suitably dystopian location for another great film! CGI has its limitations...

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