At Ash Sakula, we are continually finding clever, achievable ways to generate buzzing new environments out of nothing, that fizz with everyday ordinariness. In our masterplan for a former industrial site in east London, we avoid confronting the visitor with newness by curating changes in mood and character to be experienced throughout the development. Mixing old and new, large and small, dispels the otherness of new development. This is no superficial change of clothing or aesthetic effect. It is a realisable, profit-driven plan for the total transformation of a polluted industrial site (0 homes and 21 jobs) into a thriving district (500 homes and 300 jobs). The vision is for a place that people go to for one reason and stay for another. Our task is to create not one place, but many.
This highly visible gateway project will generate momentum for the regeneration of this part of London. Key routes that we are proposing will link Hackney Wick to Fish Island, bridge the canal and connect to existing and future developments at Hackney Wick station.
Brought into the project as collaborators with BUJ Architects, the film that we made communicated the vision for the project. This was important in to create a brief for the project, a structure or skeleton for the project that we then built on in detail, over a few years.
Our inspiration was a kind of urbanism that already exists in parts of Hackney Wick and Fish Island. Some existing buildings will be retained and new streets, yards and warehouses will be added in, referencing the more haphazard, higgledy-piggledy streetscapes of London, in their scale and massing. A palette of standard asphalt roadways, granite kerbs, concrete pavers and traditional road markings brokers the connection between this new environment and the authentic city around it. Hackney Wick is famous for its yards, which are open by day and gated at night, and we’ve tried to incorporate the qualities of conviviality that are found in these shared spaces.
Approaching the project as public realm designers, we used the typology of a park as an organising device for the site, clothing our framework of “ordinary London streets”, opening up the scheme to the canalside and forming a new interface with the A12 urban motorway to the west. Within the park, we created special moments, such as triangular areas of grass, tipped slightly to the south, for hanging out and ground-level trampolines for kids to jump around on. We also formed a rich roofscape of public gardens, terraces and play areas, accessible to residents. One roof terrace, which is open to the public, has a bar on it.
The masterplan describes a vision of plentiful high-density housing with a range of typologies and an imaginative, 24-hour mix of uses and activity generators: creative business, a co-working operation, a market, shops, gallery, event space, restaurants, a brewery, a foundry, artists’ workshops. It is customary, in medium-density residential schemes, to design monolithic buildings that occupy an entire city block, but here we are making up streetscapes with buildings that are distinct from each other. Inside they may be identical, but we can adjust floor heights, moderate window openings, syncopate rooflines to make buildings subtly different from each other. It is the antithesis to the insensitive, block-scaled developments we have come to expect.
Our re-use philosophy was to work into the site’s “knockabout history”, allowing the damaged brickwork of existing knocked-around structures to articulate the story of the site. One shed is turned into a restaurant, another becomes a gallery. A famous graffiti wall is preserved and made into a café.
Architect: Ash Sakula
Collaborators: BUJ Architects, Michael Grubb Studio
Client: London Legacy Development Corporation
Site area: 3.4 hectares
2015 Mipim Future Project Awards
2017 New London Architecture Awards winner: Overall winner
2017 New London Architecture Awards winner: Mixed Use Unbuilt
2017 New London Architecture Awards winner: Masterplans & Area Strategies