New River Village
New River Village in Hornsey, North London has provided a textbook opportunity to transform 5.4 hectares of industrial dereliction as part of an ambitious regeneration project. The former Thames Water land, set within a conservation area, is a prime example of a brownfield site which called for an innovative and creative design solution to release its full potential and deliver a quality environment with tangible community benefits. The inherent aesthetic qualities of the location – a sense of openness, ‘big skies’ and the New River, which runs the full length of the site – have helped to shape this £70 million residential-led project. The development includes a total of 622 contemporary studio, one, two, three and four bedroom apartments, maisonettes and houses. The design approach evolved from an overall planning and design framework, and an ongoing dialogue with the planning team at the London Borough of Haringey, which allowed a common approach to issues such as housing density, building massing, conservation and public realm strategy to be arrived at. The project takes on a true London-wide significance with the inclusion of a 1.5 hectare linear park, which opens up 400 metres of New River water frontage for public access and enjoyment. Designed as a sequence of landscaped and contrasting ‘river rooms’ linked by a spacious boardwalk, the linear park offers dramatic, changing vistas to provide an inspiring new visitor destination, and attract a wider public to the heart of Hornsey. The ‘river rooms’ will become outdoor galleries for the display of artworks. There are also new, wide walkways and cycleways running throughout the park, linking Hornsey High Street to nearby Wood Green and Alexandra Palace and integrating the development with the existing communities. One of the most challenging aspects of the project was to respond appropriately to the area’s conservation status and the number of locally listed buildings to be retained on the site – most notably the impressive former pump house, which has become a Royal Academy affiliated art gallery/ space and a vaulted ceiling café/restaurant. The pump house complements the residential element, demonstrating the importance of art in community life. There is also a gymnasium for residents and a day nursery for the wider community. The openness of the site has been preserved and enhanced by exploiting existing site levels – two levels of parking, for example, beneath the residential blocks are hidden within the eight metre cross fall. Elevations make use of a palette of contemporary materials with layers of texture and colour, including an innovative use of stainless steel louvres. The considered approach enhances the existing qualities of the historic buildings through sensitive contrast; architecturally the buildings and their associated components share a common language of treatment, materials, colours, heights and scales to develop a unified and harmonious ‘ensemble’. This treatment seeks to clearly reflect the functional components and uses of the programme, developing a depth and layering which both reveals and illuminates the building interiors whilst generating opportunities for the extension of habitable space through balconies, gardens and roof terraces. Internally, apartments offer a variety of bathroom and kitchen pods as well as finishes and fittings. Internal wall arrangements and types are varied, ranging from full cellular enclosure of spaces to sliding partitions and movable storage walls. This principle of space combined with flexibility and choice has been a basic generator of the architectural design which strives to optimise aspect and environment breaking down traditional relationships of inside and outside and maximising light and space through large openings which visually extend the internal space. Private external space is provided in the form of balconies, roof terraces and high quality landscaped gardens. Movable full height louvres to some balconies control solar gain and ventilation and, importantly, allow for differing degrees of privacy. The architecture has been developed as a means to embrace and give ownership to the landscape. The treatment of the external envelope reflects a light, open approach with large glazed windows and projecting balconies finished in coloured glass and steel. The background elevational finish comprises a colour palette of white, cream and pale grey animated by the steel frame, the louvres and the coloured glass balcony panels. This visually reserved approach is enhanced and enriched by the natural colour, texture, light and variety of the external landscape generating a layered, calm and transparent environment. The fabric of the buildings is a lightweight form of construction using an insulated render which reduces the mass of material needed, but achieves a high insulation value. As the Borough’s flagship project, New River Village is playing a central role in the regeneration of this historic quarter. It is an impressive example of how distinctive design solutions have played a major part in bringing confidence and animation to this hitherto fringe location.


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