Building on air

Tuesday 21 Dec 2010

Innovative and radical design by PTEa to finally complete a historic Islington square

The original Arundel Square was never completed. After three sides were finished over 150 years ago the Victorian developer ran out of money and the North London Line was constructed in a cutting on the south side of the central gardens, destroying the symmetry of the square and depressing its surroundings. The architects' radical idea was to deck over the railway cutting in order to create an extra acre of land on which to complete the Victorian square.

In 1993 Bill Thomas of Pollard Thomas Edwards architects bought a small site along the side of the North London Line. He then embarked on a patient and painstaking urban development initiative, acquiring the adjacent railway embankments and negotiating with the railway companies and a legion of other interested parties to obtain air rights. Construction finally started in 2006, when the project was taken over by United House Developments, and the scheme was completed in 2010.

The biggest challenge was the engineering: the railway cutting was decked over with 76 seven-foot deep steel joists covered by a concrete slab which spans 85 feet onto reinforced concrete retaining abutments. On the resulting acre of land which we have created we have completed Arundel Square with a contemporary six-storey mixed tenure apartment building with 146 new homes overlooking the central garden, which the architects have also doubled in size.

The design of the building is based on the scale and intricacy of the existing Victorian buildings which surround Arundel Square: a framework of limestone is suspended in front of a largely glazed façade with projecting balconies – the limestone façade is designed to reflect the stucco of the existing houses. Arundel Square shows how bold engineering and sensitive design can dramatically enhance the urban environment, and also demonstrates how to create a modern building within an existing historic context.

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United Kingdom

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