Creating intimate communities on a grand scale in LB Barking & Dagenham.
Designed and built in the 1960s, the Gascoigne Estate in Barking is characteristic of many other urban housing estates of its time, featuring a number of deteriorating high rise towers and a distinct lack of useful amenity. The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (LBBD) earmarked it for improvement with a view to create a more welcoming, well designed neighbourhood for residents and the wider community.
LBBD first asked us to develop a masterplan for the site in 2007. When the scope of this work proved too big for the Council to manage, falling at the time of recession, attention focused on regenerating the eastern side of the estate: Gascoigne East.
LBBD ran a competition to find a team who could provide the vision for a new masterplan, architecture and landscape on the site. Following our work on the Ocean Estate, we were approached by East Thames Housing Group (ETHG) to develop proposals with Allies + Morrison on board as masterplanners.
Together, we were successful in our bid and set to work to transform the estate into an attractive and appealing place to live. As well as new homes, it was essential that other services be delivered for the community. Importantly, the phase of work also needed to set the standard for quality for the remainder of the eastern masterplan. Being such a large, significant scheme meant that the GLA and Urban Design London were closely involved throughout the design process.
The starting point for redesigning Gascoigne East was to reintroduce a more traditional street pattern providing better links to Barking town centre. Tower blocks dominated the streetscape and so we created six smaller buildings within a grid of five new streets. A combination of wide boulevards and more intimate routes mitigate the impact of cars and improve safety for both residents and the wider community. Non-residential uses are situated to the edge of the neighbourhood alongside a new green space, creating an active and welcoming gateway into the scheme.
A large park sits in the centre of the estate, providing open communal amenity with paths through to the adjacent primary school (the largest in the country) and housing beyond. Play elements here reference the site’s history and courtyards provide varied communal space with areas for growing produce.
Throughout, we have taken an important aspect of the area’s history as the driving concept behind the design. The site was formerly home to a jute spinning mill in the Victorian era, and so we used 'weaving' to define the character of distinct neighbourhoods across the estate:
• Edge Street – a course hessian weave is realised through textured brickwork and robust building forms, with windows and openings carved out from the façade.
• Central Street – a medium cotton weave features less depth with brickwork panels interfacing projecting balconies.
• Green route – a fine satin weave is used in the heart of the estate, characterised by a varied roof line, crisp detailing and subtle brickwork.
We worked with Allies + Morrison throughout to ensure the architectural approach and landscape design fit seamlessly into the wider masterplan. Regular design sessions allowed us to share and develop ideas back and forth; for example, we suggested adding shifts in geometry into streets to add interest, and incorporated some of Allies + Morrison's maisonette typologies within the first phase. Together, we have also identified areas within the masterplan to be designed by smaller practices, which will be procured by mini design competitions.
Phase one provides 421 new homes, a new medical centre and shops. It creates a benchmark for the quality of subsequent phases within Gascoigne East, which includes 1,575 homes in total, commercial units, a primary school and a secondary school.