Case Studies

Case Studies

Icon, Street, Somerset

Planning and Process

The Icon residential quarter is built on the 4.9ha site of the original Clarks shoe factory in Street, a Victorian industrial market town of 11,100 residents. While shoes are no longer made in Street, the project started with the Clarks family’s vision for a new development of outstanding quality mixed tenure homes built to a high environmental standard as a lasting legacy for the town.  Icon is in the suburban area of Street, 100m from the High Street.

Icon, which includes Lime Tree Square, is part of the first phase of a 400-home scheme and includes 138 properties at the southern end of the site close to the town centre.  It comprises apartment blocks and mews and terraced housing. 

Icon, Street, Somerset
 Icon, Street, Somerset
© Insidehousing

Outline permission was granted for a housing scheme in 2004 as part of a land swap deal. This enabled an earlier Local Plan housing allocation to be re-sited closer to the High Street, while allowing Clarks to build a distribution centre nearby, thus safeguarding the company’s presence in Street.
 

Partnerships

The development reflects close working between land owners C & J Clark International, architects Feilden Clegg Bradley, landscape architects Grant Associates, Kingstone Housing Association, Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council
 

Climate Change

The development achieves an Eco Homes 2006 excellent rating and conforms to the water and energy standards of the code for sustainable homes.
 

Community Benefits and Community Engagement

Icon delivers innovative housing around Lime Tree Square, which provides a physical and social centre for the community.

There was extensive community consultation, including a stakeholder group, ‘planning for real’ workshops and visits to housing developments demonstrating best practice in sustainability. 
 

Design

The Clarks vision established the development principles, with a commitment to quality and public involvement.  The brief, adopted by the Council in 2005, included among other things:

  • a coherent network of footpaths and cycleways linking the site to existing routes, local facilities and public transport nodes;
  • extending existing development along the West End frontage while encouraging views into the site; and
  • Integrating new housing with existing local housing, and making provision for rear vehicular access to existing properties. 

By taking an innovative approach to highways design, Icon redefines the idea of the square and the street as shared spaces for pedestrians and vehicles, to create a series of traffic calmed social spaces. It develops routes to other parts of the town to create new desire lines and links.  The development is open, accessible, easy to move through and displays a carefully balanced arrangement of buildings, spaces, and links.  There is a hierarchy of private, semi-private and public spaces.
 

Learning from the past and Present

Clarks, like many other industrialists of their time, built terraces of model homes for their workers and provided community facilities and this scheme follow in that spirit.  The houses lend the scheme a strong sense of identity thanks to contemporary and robust design that references the materials and colour palette of the local area.  The design includes retention of an old stone barn on West End

Links for further information

www.hdawards.org/archive/2010/winning_schemes/overall_winner/index.php

www.buildingforlife.org/case-studies/lime-tree-square/introduction

www.cabe.org.uk/case-studies/lime-tree-square

Brian Human
Vice Chair HTF
August 2010

Waterfront Housing in Amsterdam, Eastern Harbour

Background

The Eastern Harbour includes three narrow island wharves: KSNM Island, once the home of the Royal Dutch Steamship Company; Java Island, a former industrial area; Borneo, the third island, a former railway shunting area.  They have been redeveloped to provide some of the most interesting waterfront housing in Europe.

Planning and Process

Each of these islands is planned as a neighbourhood area with an urban design strategy, organised to provide a sense of local identity. Density is 100 dwellings/hectare.

KSNM Island accommodates some 1250 dwellings - the plan is a result of collaboration between Amsterdam City Council planners and Jo Coenen.  Java Island is now a mixed-use neighbourhood of some 1350 dwellings with 500m2 of commercial space.  Borneo is a low-rise, high-density neighbourhood of some 2150 dwellings.

 Amsterdam East Harbour
Amsterdam East Harbour
 Amsterdam East HarbourImages
© Urbed 

The importance of the masterplan to shape development has been of vital importance.  Integrated teams of landscape designers, architects, planners and engineers established the development ethos. That spirit is exemplified in the form of urban housing in which the Dutch excel. The concern for privacy so prevalent in Britain is transformed into a positive approach to neighbourliness, safety, communality and self-responsibility.  Instead of traffic orientated development there is a pedestrian friendly environment.

Partnership

The close working partnership between public authorities and the private sector has enabled some 8000 houses and apartments to be built in the last ten years. The public sector, often the landowner, is able to set out the design and financial terms for development – allowing the private sector to bring finance and development expertise to the table.  On Java the partnership between city planners and the private sector consultants – in this case West 8 and Rudy Uytenhaak - has shown that a shared vision can create a high quality environment.

Partnership has been between the role of the local authority as land assembler, and that of the private sector as developer. An ‘open-book’ system operates that allows the City Council to monitor the financial performance of development as it is designed and developed.  There is an important lesson to be leaned in the idea of opening up the market to individuals rather than just developers.  

Design

On KSNM Island development takes the form of apartment blocks along the quayside with traffic running through central parkland in the middle of the island between the housing.  On Java Island the design approach has been different from KSM. Apartment blocks up to nine storeys form a wall around the island. Traffic has been kept to the quayside to provide central pedestrian friendly courtyards.

On Borneo in only designated locations have blocks of flats been built, to provide focal points. Elsewhere design guidance has limited the development to three storeys – houses, flats or maisonettes. Each unit has its own front door onto the street and its own garden of patio. Parking is both on-street and in sub basements. This creates interesting opportunities for courtyard patios on the roofs of the parking garages. Different architects, including Erick van Egeraat and Steven Holl, developed different blocks, though there is a consistency of materials and designs that is the result of careful urban design guidance.

Part of Borneo Island was the subject of a competition for development for private individuals. Plots were a standard 16 metres deep and between 4.2 – 6 metres wide. Urban design guidelines challenged the individuality of plot owners and their designers, and a creative enthusiasm emerged that has given the area an important status in the history of self-build or self-managed housing. The height of dwellings was limited to 9.5 metres. The ground floor height was consistently at 3.5 metres. Houses had to be built directly onto the dock edge.

Urban Design Guidelines have provided strong guidance on materials, height, massing and landmarks.  They are sometimes prescriptive, but flexible enough to create a canvas for imaginative and innovative responses to a very simple and well understood urban form – the terraced house.

Links
www.easterndocklands.com/index.html
www.nsl.ethz.ch/disp/reviews/157/157_abra.pdf
goamsterdam.about.com/od/amsterdamphotos/ig/Photos--Modern-Architecture/

Jon Rowland/URBED/Brian Human (Vice Chair HTF)
1st June 2010

Freiburg (Rieselfeld and Vauban), Germany

Background

Located in the south western corner of Germany Freiburg is a university town in an area that has benefited from high tech industry. The town’s population is 135,000, with a further 60,000 living in the suburbs and outlying hamlets.  After the war, the city had to start by restoring its ancient fabric. It early on realised the impossibility of accommodating the car, and so invested heavily in cycling and a high quality public transport system.

Planning and Process

A side effect of the pattern of regeneration and development has been that the population in the centre is now largely made up of singles, and those with families can no longer afford to live there. To cope with the pressures the municipality has planned and developed two new settlements on land it has acquired. One, called Vauban, is a former barracks, and includes a high proportion of self-build conversions of the old barracks buildings. The other, Rieselfeld, has been built on fields opened up by an extension of the tram system.

Partnership

The city put in the infrastructure and then let sites to private builders, housing associations and self-build groups.

Climate Change

There are a number of innovative principles, including minimising energy consumption and water run-off, and with a mix of uses the whole development is intended to be environmentally friendly. There are a number of shops around the tram stops. Car parking outside the residential blocks is kept to a minimum. Some blocks have parking under them and there are large multi storey car parks at the edges. Cycling is encouraged.

Freiburg
Freiburg QC Study tour
Freiburg
Freiburg
images © Urbed

Community

The whole environment is extremely child friendly, making it popular among those with young families.  There are no signs of graffiti, and the development seems extremely popular, the high densities helping to generate street life and a sense of community at a neighbourhood level.

The pattern of splitting blocks into maisonettes with separate entrances and large balconies overcomes many of the disadvantages of flat living. But it is probably the appeal of children growing up with ideal play conditions that attracts so many young parents to these new developments.

Design

Most of the housing is in five to six storey blocks made up of two storey maisonettes. There is a high stress on balconies and communal courtyards. However, the most impressive feature is probably the ecological landscaping around the water courses, which has been replicated in the abundant planting around many of the blocks.

The apartments have been made attractive through a number of features.

Learning from the Past and Present

In Vauban, inspired perhaps by the conversions of the old barracks, the residents have very much made their mark, and take great pride in the semi-communal gardens.

  • They are set in a natural landscape, which creates the sense of living in the country. Access to allotments is easy, and the small huts create a kind of ‘place in the country’.
  • While the blocks tend to be similar in height and footprint, each looks individual because of the rich variety of materials and colours used. In Vauban, the policy of keeping cars in peripheral car parks also helps to make the development quieter and safer - the use of crossroads without priority helps to keep traffic speeds down without any need of humps.
  • Each block is different and this is encouraged by the high proportion developed by co-ops, in which the occupiers invest ‘sweat equity’.

Freiburg has promoted planned extensions to cope with demands for more housing. The two settlement extensions of Rieselfeld and Vauban are different from most development attempted in Britain, and it is easy to dismiss them as interesting, but hardly relevant. Yet they tackle some basic issues that apply equally to British cities, including how to attract families to live at higher densities close enough to city centres to avoid depending on the private car.

Links:
http://www.williemiller.co.uk/remarkable-rieselfeld.htm
http://www.vauban.de/info/abstract.html

URBED/Brian Human (Vice Chair HTF)
1stJune 2010

New England Quarter, Brighton

The development of the old Brighton Station goods yard is a major development within a historic city – it extends over 8.75 ha. The land had been largely derelict since 1968. The scheme will include housing, shops, a training college, community centres and hotels and a transport interchange. Master planning included the concept of creating mixed uses around 20 different blocks. Planning for the development started in 1998 and was approved on 2003, construction started in 2004 and large sections of the scheme are now complete. The case study by URBED considers:
  • Planning and concept development
  • Finance
  • Environmental and climate change considerations
  • Regeneration and community benefits
  • Lessons learned

View Urbed's Case Study on the New England Quarter in Brighton

Brighton, New England Quarter
Brighton, New Brighton, New England QuarterEngland Quarter
Brighton, New England Quarter
Brighton, New England Quarter
 

Upton, Northampton

Upton in Northampton is a historic market town and service centre with an urban population of around 189,500. In 2001, Northampton embarked on a project to create an urban extension that would promote best practice in sustainable urban growth.
 

Planning

The area identified for the extension was a site allocated in the Local Plan at Upton on the south-west edge of the town, less than three miles from the town centre.  The Upton Framework Plan received planning approval in February 2003.

The development will comprise 6,400 dwellings, 13,320 sq m of retail floorspace and major open spaces. The first phases of the development are on site and when complete will provide around 1,000 homes, together with a primary school, local shops and live-work units. Commercial offices, retail and community uses will form a local centre. 
Upton,Northampton
Upton,Northampton
Upton images © Ivor Samuels
 

Partnership

The development at Upton is the result of a partnership between Northampton Borough Council, English Partnerships (EP) and The Prince's Foundation. In 2001 the partners appointed a design team and together formed the Upton Working Group.
 

Community

The approach to developing Upton was worked up through a series of Enquiry by Design exercises.
 

Design

A plan for a sustainable community was prepared using a design code. Although the 2003 Design Code was not adopted by the local authority, it became the landowner’s framework for delivering the plan objectives and the basis for choosing house builders.  The Design Code steers Upton’s overall character; building character will be influenced strongly by individual builders and architects. 
 
Upton challenges conventional suburban layouts by creating a network of connected streets and displays a range of features that aid accessibility and movement for all users. Upton’s hierarchy of streets has been thought through carefully, is sympathetic to the scale of the development and aims for generally high quality materials and installation. The scale and form of the buildings that line the streets aim to gives them an urban feel. This helps give a positive impression to residents and visitors that this is a quality place with a strong design ethos.
 

Learning from the Past and Present

Key features of the Design Code include, among many other things, the requirement for a wide range of dwelling types and for the design to draw inspirations from the Northamptonshire vernacular. 
 
Further information:
 
Brian Human, Vice-Chair, HTF
22nd February 2010
 
For further details please see www.cabe.org.uk/case-studies/upton-phase-one 

Accordia, Cambridge

Cambridge is an important historic University City and regional service centre with a population of around 123,000. The development is about 2km from the city centre and 600m from the railway station.
 

Planning and Process

The 9.6ha Accordia development is part of a larger 12.10ha regeneration site identified in the Cambridge Local Plan (1996) for housing, offices, hotel, and public open space.
 
The objectives for the development were: to create a premier housing development in Cambridge: to establish cohesiveness with the Cambridge context in general, the immediate surroundings and the development: to enable a mixed and long-term community on the Accordia site; and to build a profitable development
 
Cambridge City Council made sure its high aspirations for the site were upheld by acting firmly to provide clear guidelines that still allowed for flexibility and architectural creativity. Permission for the development was withheld until ‘suitable’ architects were found by the developers.
 
One of the most distinctive aspects of the process was the decision by lead architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley (FCB), to subcontract two other architect firms. The reasoning was that this would add architectural variety and immediate longevity to the site. Doubt from the developers was alleviated by FCB taking full responsibility for overseeing the two firms and the Masterplanning. 
 
The development comprises 378 dwellings, a mixture of houses and flats, with 33% social housing.
Accordia plan
Accordia plan © Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects 
Accordia, Cambridge
Accordia, Cambridge
Accordia, Cambridge
Accordia images © Brian Human

Partnership

Countryside Properties were Accordia’s initial developer, selling phase 2 and 3 of Accordia to Redeham Homes in 2006. Although the developer’s task was aided by the clear brief of Cambridge City Council, they were praised for their architectural risk-taking in a somewhat difficult economic climate. Contrary to much modern housing, they backed high quality design and materials and did not shy away from creativity and innovation after their appointment of FCB.
  

Climate Change

The Accordia homes were built through ‘Innovative Methods of Construction’ and the scheme features high SAP ratings, however, the sustainability agenda has moved on rapidly since the Masterplan was agreed. Despite this, there are features which address climate change issues, e.g. through high thermal mass building and flat sedum-planted ‘living roofs’. Accordia incorporates sustainable urban drainage features including:
  • the use of Swales;
  • a small reed bed water treatment pond;
  • controls over what water could flow back into Hobson’s Brook; and
  • permeable external surfaces.
A further contribution is made through the development’s focus on sustainable as opposed to vehicular transport. Parking (at a ratio of 1:1.26) is provided in underground plots beneath the large apartment blocks, in generous garages and car ports and in larger car parking courts. While some residents feel that parking is inadequate, others see the suppressed supply as integral to the sustainability and environmental agenda of Accordia, pushing those who move to the development to adopt more sustainable modes of travel.
 

Community

Internal layouts and house plans work with clearly delineated threshold spaces and building frontages to allow for the range of lifestyles and the customisation essential in enabling long term residency and thus enduring communities.
 

Design

Accordia’s mews-style areas are small scale and intimate.   Their primary use is for access to garages and the live/work rooms above garages in the larger houses. The Mews streets play a key part in creating self-policing neighbourhoods, in terms of both speed limitations and keeping vehicles off-road.   In addition, the use of shared surfaces found in these tightly planned spaces blurs the boundaries between vehicular, pedestrian and cycle routes, further calming traffic and providing a focus on sustainable rather than motor vehicular transport.
 
Accordia provides very generous open space compared with developments locally. It is in line the Masterplanning concept of ‘Living in a Garden’ - 3.5ha of the 9.6ha are landscaped. Due to the generosity of these spaces, the overall density of the scheme is comparatively low - 47 units per hectare overall, 65 units per hectare in built area.
 

Learning from the Past and Present

A large part of Accordia’s success flows from its context led design: consideration of the broader Cambridge context from architectural, historical, geographical and economic points of view. The development is strongly informed by its local context, reflecting in both design and material the surrounding historic developments for example, the use of common Cambridge-style yellow brick and a copper-cladding which connect the houses to traditions in Cambridge.   Accordia’s architectural frontage is designed with modernist interpretations of the traditional villas opposite.
 
Brian Human, Vice-Chair, HTF
22nd February 2010
 
For further details please see www.cabe.org.uk/case-studies/accordia/design