Barking Central is one of the most successful regeneration projects in the UK. It has revitalized Barking town centre with a large mixed-use scheme of 7 new buildings including a new Learning Centre, over 500 residential apartments, a 66 bed hotel, a bicycle shed for 250 bikes, 9 retail units, a café, a new town square and an arboretum. Delivered in two phases over 9 years, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) masterplanned and designed the buildings overcoming many challenges to create a scheme that symbolizes the regeneration of this Thames Gateway town. “The credit that the architects deserve is in delivering this extraordinarily fraught project at all. . . many in Barking credit(ing AHMM) with driving the project through when others were losing faith. This is architecture partly as creative entrepreneurship, making decisions and effecting compromises that allow other things to happen.” Kieran Long, Editor, Architects Journal
As with any large scale regeneration, the scheme faced challenges that were overcome with a positive attitude towards finding solutions and the successful working relationships with a complex client group including local authority, community organisations and developers. Despite the protracted programme and the difficult procurement process, high quality design remained central to the whole team’s ambition of what could be achieved. The quality and innovation throughout the scheme prove that public/private investment can work with the right team in place. Phase I of the development included the creation of the new Barking Learning Centre with over 250 apartments above and a public square, located opposite the existing Town Hall. The key construction challenge was the retention of the original 1970s library building and the design of a new concrete frame and transfer structure built over library to support the new housing above. Amazingly, Phase I was delivered four months early and within budget.
The new Barking Learning Centre offers a much wider range of public amenities with ICT suites, conference facilities, a one-stop-shop, café, art gallery, classrooms as well as library facilities. AHMM persuaded the client to allow them to retain control of FF&E contract for the library – raising the standard to include bespoke furniture and branding/wayfinding by leading contemporary designers, including long-time collaborator Studio Myerscough. The library has seen dramatic increase in users and is now open until 10pm; bring new life into the centre of Barking.
Phase II included the remaining five buildings - housing, a hotel, retail and a grand bike shed. The spaces between this new townscape were designed by muf architecture/art and include a formal square, a brick folly and an Arboretum. The AHMM masterplan was deliberately designed with buildings of varying forms, heights and materials, connected by a colour strategy of eleven vivid colours inspired by the seasonal changes of the Arboretum and the brand colours of R Whites whose factory once inhabited the site.
Now completed, Barking Central has created a vibrant, dense and high quality townscape that has reconnected parts of Barking, with active ground floor street edges, public amenities such as the Learning Centre, set around new public spaces. The scheme has already won prizes for housing, use of materials and public realm design, and sets a new standard for future urban regeneration, and the following projects in Barking Town Centre.
Awards MIPIM Best Mixed Use Award, 2007 Housing Design Awards, 2005 European Prize for Public Urban Space, 2008 British Construction Industry Award (BCIA) – Local Authority Award, 2008