Procter and Matthews/Mecanoo releases new regeneration plans for Thamesmead in London

Nick Myall
19 May 2016

A London housing estate is set to be regenerated by Peabody housing association as part of £1.5 bn facelift

A design team led by Proctor and Matthews alongside Mecanoo are lined up to transform Thamesmead in south east London. When the estate was completed in the 1970’s it was hailed as the town of the future by the Greater London Council but since then it has been plagued by crime and violence. It also suffers from the negative perceptions created by the film a Clockwork Orange.

However, London housing association Peabody has submitted ambitious plans for the regeneration of the area. Making use of the possibilities the improved transport links that Crossrail will bring, Mecanoo Architecten and Proctor and Matthews Architects, alongside landscape architects Turkington Martin, developed a masterplan with over 1,500 housing units. The plan will deliver a coherent community with affordable homes, new jobs, and around 10,000 sq m of commercial, retail and leisure space, at close travel distance to the City of London.

Detailed proposals have also been unveiled for a new civic quarter as the first development phase of the masterplan. This will contain 525 homes alongside community, retail and leisure facilities around a public square, shifting perceptions of Thamesmead through a step change in the quality of the built environment and public realm. 

Thamesmead was built in the 1970s on former marshland. Elevated walkways were used to connect tower blocks while the ground floor was reserved for car parking. The development was considered an innovate approach to housing, but quickly gained a reputation for being unpleasant and unsafe. The masterplan proposes a radical change, focusing on connectivity, community and character.

From Abbey Wood station in the south to Southmere Lake in the north, the plan provides an enlivened sequence of streets and squares to create an improved sense of place. Active frontages for commercial, retail and leisure spaces create a mixed use area with a high quality public realm, activating the lakeside and improving the experience of the surrounding landscape. The mix of uses, different types of dwellings and public space enrich the community, bringing a distinct character to each of the four development areas of the masterplan. 

- Southmere Lane, which runs parallel to Harrow Manorway, meandering across the urban grid and offering a safe and logical route for cyclists and pedestrians.

- The grouping of apartment buildings and terraced houses around raised shared courtyards to create smaller communities within the neighbourhood, resulting in clusters that form a contemporary reinterpretation of late 19th century Peabody buildings.

- Squares that acts as neighbourhood focal points and Specials landmark buildings that will be visible from a wide area, accentuating specific townscape moments.

- Linking the larger landscape elements surrounding South Thamesmead, and, on a smaller scale, creating new connections that reinforce the main pedestrian routes.

The new Thamesmead Civic Quarter occupies a large site on the edge of Southmere Lake. A new Civic Square will act as the focal point for local residents and visitors, and restore community facilities to the area. A double height colonnade encloses the square on ground level, activating the plinth with shop frontages and building entrances. Opening towards Southmere Lake, it creates an attractive environment that allows street life to thrive.

Building ensembles new Civic Square define the edges of the square. While each of the ensembles have their own distinctive character and style, they are tied together through a uniform articulation in building height and rhythm. The predominant material is brick, adding a warmer feel to the existing concrete buildings that are carefully integrated into the new scheme. 

The development contains a broad range of dwelling sizes from one bedroom units to four bedroom townhouses. The majority of apartments have dual aspect, with private balconies designed to maximize views and exposure to natural light. The units are grouped around raised shared gardens and recessed ground level courtyards that form the green heart of each building ensemble.

The development will be built in four phases, with Phase One (the Civic Quarter) due to commence in early 2017 and the final phase completing in 2021.

Stephen Howlett, Chief Executive at Peabody, said: “Thamesmead is a special part of London with huge potential for the future. The creation of 1,500 new homes and a new high street as part of the Abbey Wood and South Thamesmead Housing Zone, together with the arrival of Crossrail means we also have the opportunity to create hundreds of new jobs and attract new business.”

Crossrail arriving in nearby Abbey Wood will mean Canary Wharf is only 11 mins away and TCR just 20 mins, this has led to house prices in Abbey Wood increasing by 35% in 12 months.

Francine Houben, Creative Director at Mecanoo Architecten, said: “Using our 30 years' experience in creating pleasant urban neighbourhoods, the plan for Thamesmead that aims to reinstate a strong sense of community and introduces what Thamesmead needs first of all: good public space that is accessible for all. A new spine is created; a route connecting Abbey Wood’s future Crossrail station, Southmere Lake, the surrounding landscape, and the existing neighbourhoods. The new buildings and squares that define the new route will give Thamesmead the right human scale and identity.”

Nick Myall

News Editor

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