Arranged in two blocks with expressed vertical circulation, the scheme creates a dramatic new edge to Barking town centre marking the transition from the established residential neighbourhood to the east to the more open landscape of the River Roding to the west.
The site had previously been home to a series of prefabricated houses built as part of the progressive, post-war, temporary homes programme. These were demolished in the 1970s leaving an isolated parcel of land without a real purpose or focus. While not part of the original brief, Reed Watts felt that it was important to re-establish connections across the site, allowing people to move through it once more. The resulting masterplan introduced a new pedestrian route that defined space for shared gardens, public open space and a small number of parking spaces for disabled residents.
The four and six storey blocks sit to the north and south of this new route respectively, with the northern block sitting at 90 degrees to the other. This arrangement creates closure to the landscaped gardens and helps to reduce the impact of the development on neighbouring properties.
Each of the blocks is accessed through its own walled garden. These spaces include meadow planting in place of formal lawns as well as areas for residents to socialise together with dedicated seating areas and raised allotment beds. In addition to these external spaces, a shared garden room is provided within the buildings where residents can come together for events, for group workshops and as an alternative to their own living rooms if working from home.
While the form and massing of the buildings was established quite early in the project, the construction methods and façade materials evolved during the process. Initially planned as a fully pre-fabricated scheme, the design developed to use light-gauge steel frame panels while the façade evolved to include an insulated render with brick slips. The changes required close collaboration between the design team, planners, contractors and client.
Working with the brick slip manufacturer Reed Watts developed a colour palette to connect to the warm terracotta and buff tones of neighbouring buildings. The subtle changes in colour across the façade helps to break up the massing and to create a sense of ‘texture’ even though the façade itself is relatively shear. In contrast to the solidity of the elevations, the stair cores are light, airy spaces. By creating openings within the cast-glass cladding, residents have a direct visual connection to the gardens with panoramic views across London from the higher levels.
The scheme provides 78 one-bedroom homes, including two wheelchair adaptable homes. It represents Reed Watts’s largest project to date and it is fully occupied by local first-time buyers.