Barking CentralEdit profile
The regeneration of Barking began over 9 years ago and the history of the project forms part of the ambitious regeneration of Barking as a key town in the Thames Gateway. From 2000, a number of proposals were developed for the site with AHMM were appointed to masterplan the area in 2002. The site and town centre as a whole has a rich history, transforming from agricultural land to the location of a range of industrial uses such as a Rope Works, R Whites Soft Drinks Factory, and Piano Factory. As the town centre evolved, this site became the civic heart of the town, holding the Town Baths, The Magistrates Court, and later the Town Hall and the Municipal Library. As with all large scale urban regeneration projects, the client group is a complex mixture of local authority, community organisations and developers and AHMM worked hard to ensure that the vision for Barking Central was lost in this mix. As well as the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD), the design team dealt with the following authorities; London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, GLA, Design for London, and CABE; organisations including Barking College and University of East London, and the developer client Redrow Regeneration. The land owner for the development throughout the process was the LBBD who worked in partnership with the private developer (originally Urban Catalyst and then Redrow Regeneration). In return for allowing the developer to implement the delivery of over 500 market sale residential units on the LBBD land, the developer was obliged to create a number of affordable residential units, to create a new Life Long Learning Centre (within the fabric of the existing library), and to spend over £1m on ‘public art’.
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, and new public spaces. Delivered in two phases over 9 years, AHMM masterplanned and designed the buildings overcoming many challenges to create a scheme that symbolizes the regeneration of this Thames Gateway town. Phase I of the development included the creation of the new Barking Learning Centre and the Rope Works with over 250 apartments 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 2 new linear buildings and Sky Garden above. Amazingly, Phase I was delivered four months early and within budget. Phase II included a hotel, retail units, a grand bike shed and 3 residential buildings – Bath House, Lemonade Building and Axe House. The masterplan was deliberately designed with buildings of varying forms, heights and materials, connected by a colour strategy. Bath House has 96 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, most of which overlook the Aboretum and Town Square. Lemonade Building takes the form of a tower, enclosing the west end of The Arboretum. Its height responds to the tower of the Town Hall and signals the regeneration of the town centre. Seventeen storeys high, the building accommodates 68 1 and 68 2 bedroom apartments, all with terraces inset to provide more sheltered spaces. Axe Street houses 40 1 to 3 bedroom apartments, which sits to the south of the main buildings, designed as a white, neutral addition to the townscape. Identity and Colours The site and town centre as a whole has a rich history, transforming from agricultural land to the location of a range of industrial uses such as a Rope Works, R Whites Soft Drinks Factory, and Piano Factory. As the town centre evolved, this site became the civic heart of the town, holding the Town Baths, The Magistrates Court, and later the Town Hall and the Municipal Library.
AHMM worked with long term collaborator Studio Myerscough to develop branding and colour strategies for the whole scheme using references and inspiration from Barking’s rich past. Each building has been given a name that relates to previous industrial uses of the site. The bold use of yellow and green on the facades of Phase 1 is carried through to the interior of the Learning Centre, enlivened by a yellow floor, green furniture and large supergraphics. Over Phase 2, this developed further into a spectrum Construction On Phase I due to the need to simultaneously construct the residential blocks while work continued on the library below, modular construction principles were adopted from the outset to allow for ease of fabrication, installation and maintain programme and cost control. Apartment sizes and layouts were also developed to utilize an insitu cast concrete frame with flat slabs and blade columns. This minimized offset concrete frame components and limited the different type of units, which result in easy duplication of the separate building elements and a seamless floor on floor construction process. Sustainability The project makes a contribution to reducing climate change in a variety of ways, devised as a car free project it makes the most of its proximity to the excellent transports connections Barking offers, green roofs assist with insulation whilst reducing flood risk in an urban environment, the buildings white colour helps to prevent overheating and some of the flats have solar thermal renewable technologies. Phase 2 will bring the addition of a purpose built bike storage facility. 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 sets a new standard for future urban regeneration, and the following projects in Barking Town Centre.