Regenerating an inner city estate that was built in the 70s, failed in the 80s and was demolished in the 90s.
In 1990, the Holly Street Estate in Hackney was in desperate need of regeneration – homes were in a state of disrepair, crime rates were high and residents were socially isolated. Four imposing towers and a series of monolith ‘snake’ blocks created a hostile and intimidating place to live – away from green space, lacking natural light and with severe accessibility issues.
In 1992, Holly Street became one of the first large scale public/private partnership projects within the country, and the London Borough of Hackney devised a brief for its comprehensive, holistic regeneration.
Unusually, residents were involved from the very outset side by side with LB Hackney – helping to set the brief and select the project team. This was a very progressive move at the time, but it set the tone for the rest of development, which was always focused on the local community’s need to have high quality homes in a high quality environment.
Working with Laing Homes, we drew up proposals and were selected to create a new masterplan for the site, incorporating the phased redevelopment of 1,050 new homes, integrating extensive community facilities and upgrading the public realm and landscape.
Razed to the ground to make way for the estate in the 60s, the original Victorian street pattern in the Holly Street area had been destroyed. Our starting point was to reinstate this, creating a more familiar and permeable streetscape with mid-rise housing and pockets of green space.
Three of the four towers were demolished, with the one remaining transformed to provide dedicated homes for older people. The original cladding was covered with a new building envelope created to wrap around the original structure, which became known as ‘the tea cosy’, enclosing previously exposed balconies to create secure winter gardens.
It became clear through the design process that residents did not want their new housing to be another experiment in urban planning. They felt let down by the modernist vision, and wanted to return to a more traditional terraced housing model. Gradually, through the phased regeneration of the neighbourhood, the community became supportive of a contemporary architectural approach. This is particularly evident in the most recent phase of new homes, which demonstrate a comtemporary aesthethic with white render, zinc roofs, staggered, glazed balconies and full height windows.
To ensure continuing collaboration with residents, an Estate Development Committee (EDC) was established early on, which was instrumental in shaping the project. The EDC members became advocates for the regeneration and helped gain widespread support. We also worked closely with residents on the phasing and decant strategy to ensure that people would be moved to homes alongside their neighbours and families – fundamental to keeping the community together.
As well as 1,050 new homes across the masterplan, a new nursery, sports hall, youth amenities, employment training facilities and public space have been integrated as part of the regeneration of Holly Street – making it almost unrecognisable from the estate of 20 years ago.