Building on hallowed ground

Karen Bates
Tuesday 15 Dec 2009

Allies & Morrison completes the transformation of historic Arsenal stadium into unique residential community

Highbury has been Arsenal FC’s home since it was established in 1917. When a new stadium was planned next door, the opportunity arose to redevelop their old home. Allies and Morrison’s design evolved from this brief, transforming an early, important example of a British football stadium into a residential community, preserving the memory of the original arena while creating a new community and living environment for North London and contributing to the rich local grain of North London streets, avenues and squares. As a result, a new typology has emerged: a unique example of urban infill producing a contemporary London square, complemented by a series of new and smaller residential courtyards.

A fundamental feature has been the conversion of the existing East and West Stands. The East Stand was built in 1936 to a design by CW Ferrier & Major William Binnie and is unmistakably Art Deco in style. The West Stand was built to a more utilitarian design by CW Ferrier.

The East Stand is Grade II Listed and while its counterpart to the west is not, their similarity merited the retention of both, to achieve a balanced composition of new and existing buildings, successfully framing the former football pitch, now a large central garden. The four metre structural grid of the two stands is utilised as a planning grid, offering apartment plans that include generous double-height spaces overlooking the former pitch. By the same plan, the simple rectilinear space of the garden has been abstracted into a complex grid of planting and water features, designed in conjunction with Christopher Bradley-Hole. Wild grasses and hedgerows are set out on a tartan grid, punctuated by decorative features of glass encased, illuminated, waterwalls. A new public route also passes through the garden.

Accessed through generous entrance portals, the north and south blocks form a series of six garden courts. The strong visual links created between these more intimate spaces and the larger central garden have been introduced to enhance the sense of place and community throughout the scheme, building on the tradition of North London garden squares.

The scheme has excellent sustainability credentials. Designed to achieve an EcoHomes ‘Very Good’ rating, the scheme has one of the largest solar heating arrays in Europe, capable of integration with future off-site systems. This links to a CHP system which supplies heating and hot water to the whole development. The electricity generated supplies power for external lighting. These and other measures are calculated to reduce CO2 emissions by 22%.

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United Kingdom

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