Haworth Tompkins won a competition in 1999 to design a new urban block on the South Bank just behind the National Theatre. The first Phase created a new housing development that occupies three sides of the block and creating a garden in the Centre. This multi award-winning project represented the latest in a series of brownfield developments on London’s South Bank by Coin Street Community Builders.
The site occupied two very different worlds - the nationally important cultural and tourist centre of the South Bank, and the residential neighbourhood of Coin Street and The Cut. Haworth Tompkins won a limited competition to provide 59 new dwellings, including 32 family houses and a mix of smaller flats and maisonettes.
The challenge for all inner-city housing is to reconcile the scale and monumentality demanded by the urban streetscape with the privacy and domesticity of homes. On such a prominent site, a strong typology was called for, one which could be understood easily by both the public and its residents. We sought a simple form which established very clear signals of public and private, but had sufficient presence to maintain the metropolitan buzz.
The dwellings were therefore arranged around an open courtyard, a hollow square. That allowed communal space to be maximised in the form of a large landscaped garden. The garden had absolute privacy and security from the street, and provided both a green space in the busy urban grain, and a focus for the community.
The elevations of the houses could then acknowledge their dual aspect, addressing the public streetscape and the private garden in very different ways. The street façades were expressed as simple brick screens with deep window reveals. On the garden side, meanwhile, more informal timber cladding was selected. Like the landscaping of the garden, this has slowly weathered and changed as the Iroko project has matured.
The scheme embodied many principles of sustainability, both in spatial planning and solar access. Each dwelling was given roof-mounted solar panels to produce domestic hot water. Insulation levels, ventilation systems and building materials were all specified for minimum environmental impact.