Great West Quarter
Great West Quarter is regeneration on a grand scale. A dilapidated five-hectare site on the Great West Road in Brentford, West London, it was an agglomeration of disused industrial and office buildings, including the iconic Grade II listed Wallis House, which had been vacant since 1995. With Barratt West London, we’re transforming the site into a striking, vibrant new living quarter.
The first step was to address the site’s status as a strategic employment area – a concern for the planning authority. We handled extensive consultation and detailed negotiations to find a compromise between declared policy and the general move towards mixed-use developments, demonstrating that diversity of use was vital to the long-term success of the regeneration effort.
The scheme will provide 425 private and 348 affordable apartments along with cafes, bars and restaurants, a convenience store, nursery/crèche, health and fitness centre, surgery, art gallery, hotel and business starter units. It will create around 1,500 new jobs and a balanced community, in a car-free, sustainable environment, with a robust infrastructure.
We took care to ensure a mix of housing accommodation, from studios to one, two and three-bedroom apartments, some with a private balcony, terrace or both, to family accommodation in the form of three-bedroom maisonettes with private courtyards. The affordable apartments will be virtually indistinguishable from the private.
In designing the masterplan, we created a character map of the individual areas of the site and the function of each building or group of buildings, to ensure a legible new community. The taller buildings run north-south and the shorter buildings east-west, allowing maximum daylight and sunlight penetration to the public areas, while the principal visual axes are the east and west boulevards.
There are three main elements of the development, each with a distinctive character:
• The Grade II listed Wallis House with its ten-storey tower at the eastern side. Exterior features have been retained, a cathodic protection system has been installed, and stonework, brickwork and plaster have been repaired. The windows have been replaced with high quality thermally broken windows which replicated the design of the original, a decision which took a year in negotiation. Internally, the main lobby takes a modern twist on the art deco theme.
• New build forming the centre and rear of the site, offering modern accommodation
• The Tower: a 25-storey counter-balancing structure on the western edge, which is positioned to ensure minimal disturbance from wind and uses an innovative twin skin façade to protect against noise and the weather, and provide a thermal barrier
Given the variety of buildings, we have delivered cohesion through common elements: materials such as render, brick, blockwork and glazing are the same for all private and affordable accommodation.
Security and accessibility have been key considerations, with entry systems and CCTV for the former and the extension of bus routes, cycle parks and ample parking spaces for the latter.
A key ambition was to encourage interaction among the community and the landscape plays a key role in this. A series of courtyards, a playground and a half-acre piazza for public events and leisure, with the provision of restaurants, shops and an art gallery, create connection points for the community. There is also a public art strategy, including light sculptures, throughout.
A new, tree-lined pedestrian highway crosses the site and draws people away from the more hostile Great West Road. Open spaces have been planned at the east and west edges to provide external seating for the art gallery, cafés, restaurant and pub. A green corridor for wildlife will act as a buffer for the railway on the southern edge.
The scheme is an exemplar of sustainable development. It has re-used brownfield land and embraced advanced techniques in its construction to minimise waste and reuse site aggregate. It incorporates solar panels and power generation techniques to use energy from renewable sources, with a target of 10% on-site renewable energy generation. Last but not least, in an area that currently provides little or no facilities existing workers and residents, Great West Quarter will bring economic and social sustainability to the existing and new community.
The massing of the buildings is orientated so that the taller buildings run north-south and the shorter buildings east-west which allows maximum daylight and sunlight penetration to the public areas. The principal visual axes are the east and west boulevards.
Common elements run throughout the entire scheme to provide a cohesion. The palette of materials and the architectural concepts for the private and affordable accommodation are the same.
Render, brick, blockwork and glazing are used for all tenures and their use is appropriate to the character of the area rather that of the tenure type.
The concept of the overall design connects the site with the rest of Brentford; linking effectively to the existing vehicular, pedestrian, cyclist and green space infrastructure.
There are three prominent elements to the development, each with a distinctive character:
• Wallis House, the listed Art Deco building with its ten storey tower at the eastern side
• New build forming the centre and rear of the site
• the Tower: a 25-storey counter-balancing structure on the western edge
Where appropriate, demolition has taken place to improve the aspect of, and sightlines to the key structures with new buildings sited with similar due regard.
As Wallis House is Grade II listed, all the exterior features are being retained and the new conversion apartments are being created within the space available internally. A modern twist on the Art Deco theme is being used for the interior design of the main lobby in the building.
The architectural design of the Tower will establish a 21st Century icon; utilising modern materials and techniques to create a new architectural statement worthy of ‘The Golden Mile’. The tower will use an innovative twin skin facade with an attractive play of light and shadow, the outer skin providing protection from noise, wind and rain, the inner providing a thermal barrier.
The ‘yacht mast’ plan shape has been derived from a desire to offer minimal disturbance to the wind environment; a low level canopy provides down-draught protection.
The entire scheme is completely permeable; providing access only for pedestrians, not cars with rising bollards to prevent their entry.
The conversion and refurbishment of Wallis House has presented a number of challenges: built around a steel frame a cathodic protection system has been installed to stop the steel from deteriorating. Repairs to stonework has been undertaken by professional stonemasons while repairs to brickwork required specially fired and sized bricks. Windows were replaced with high quality thermally broken windows which replicated the design of the original. The process of negotiating the replacement of the windows with the Conservation Officer and The 20th Century Society took a full year. Polished plaster has also been repaired by hand.
The apartments include studio, one, two and three-bedroom properties. Many apartments will have a private balcony, terrace or both.
The Tower, containing both residential apartments and hotel rooms, will feature a publicly accessible viewing platform.
The affordable apartments will be virtually indistinguishable from the private. The London Borough of Hounslow set a challenge to incorporate family accommodation and to meet this, the design includes three-bedroom maisonettes with private courtyards for family use.
Apartments across the entire scheme will provide up-to-the-minute urban living space, with high specification kitchens and bathrooms. Contemporary studios maximise space with fully fitted beds, table and kitchen areas. Many of the one-bedroom apartments will also include a useful study room. The kitchens, with contemporary styled units, will be fully equipped with a stainless steel hob and oven with extractor, fully integrated dishwasher and the provision for a washer/dryer. Welcoming, light and airy reception rooms will be ready-wired for TV, Sky +, phone and FM. Heating will be gas-fired underfloor.
The scheme is designed to encourage community interaction. A series of courtyards, a playground and an approximately half an acre piazza designed for public events and quiet leisure will create connection points for the community. All the residential elements will also be set in their own landscaped grounds.
Reflecting the overall concept,the piazza is permeable public open space, designed so that pedestrians, including the wider community, can walk from one end to the other. It will include restaurants, shops and an art gallery. A public art strategy will incorporate specially commissioned installations visible throughout the site.
A new pedestrian highway crosses the site, drawing pedestrians away from the more hostile Great West Road, and will be landscaped and tree-lined. Open spaces have been planned at the east and west edges; providing external seating areas for the art gallery, cafés, restaurant and pub. A green corridor for wildlife will act as buffer for the railway on the southern edge.
The night time context has been carefully considered, with a holistic lighting effect for the whole area to encourage a successful community environment. Light sculptures will be incorporated on Skylon Tower and Wallis House, drawing attention to the special features of the buildings.
Safety and Accessibility
The new homes, all with audio phone entry systems, are being created within gated courtyards which will provide a sense of security.
Full time centre management and security staff will be on site, with CCTV linked to the centre management security office.
The 235 bus route will be extended into the site to improve public transport links. The route has been designed to avoid the feeling of a vehicular road, but its presence will increase the activity in the area during the day and night, an essential part of creating a vibrant, active community.
Clayponds Lane will be modified to provide shared surfaces and new high quality materials to enable the space to be much more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.
There will be 943 underground parking spaces plus 102 surface parking spaces providing sufficient spaces for residents, commercial users and visitors. There will also be a secure cycle park, a cycle club and a car club.
The re-use of this brownfield land reduces pressure for development on greenfield land elsewhere. Significant landscaping and tree planting will help to reduce the carbon emissions.
Great West Quarter will be a highly sustainable development, employing advanced construction techniques to minimise construction waste and reuse site aggregate. The development will feature solar panels and power generation techniques to use energy from renewable sources. Targeting 10% on-site renewable energy will be a feature of the scheme, incorporating various sources.
The refuse for the scheme incorporates recycling bins for each resident for glass, paper, plastic and green waste. The main bin store will be in the car park, with a collection point near Clayponds Lane.
In an area that currently provides little or no facilities for the many workers and current residents of the area, Great West Quarter will bring economic and social sustainability to the existing and new community.
2008 British Homes Awards - Winner for Housing Project Of the Year