Petition update

And the winners are - Hopkins Architects (aka Architect 1)

Twickenham Riverside Park Team

Dec 2, 2019 — 

The Council recently announced that Hopkins Architects are the winners of the Twickenham Riverside design competition. In addition to 'Architect 1' they will be known as 'preferred bidders' until the Finance, Policy and Resources Committee has given its approval to award the design contract in January.

You can read more about the Council's process and timelines here:  El Brute News

As members of the Stakeholder Reference Group we've submitted our views along with recommendations for enhancements to Hopkins' concept scheme. These expand on the views expressed in our previous update, hence this is quite a long update.

 

TRPT Recommendations for Enhancements to the Selected Twickenham Riverside Scheme

Overview

We are delighted that the Design Panel selected the proposed scheme by Hopkins Architects for Twickenham Riverside. As is clear from our Evaluation of the five shortlisted proposals, it was one of two preferred schemes we recommended for the reasons we stated. It is our view that the scheme by Hopkins Architects conceptually best encapsulates the principles promoted by the TRPT and best interprets the requirements of the Brief. This is the successful culmination of an excellent competition and selection process overseen by the Council and RIBA, resulting in Hopkins emerging ahead of some of the best architectural practices in the country.

We have confidence that if the standard demonstrated thus far is maintained through to the delivery of this scheme, Twickenham will have a Riverside that will redefine our town centre, and be the envy of every other riverside development along the Thames.

The primary strength of this scheme is that it manages to combine ‘future proofing’ in flexibility of use, whilst maintaining a clear identity as a contextual riverside development. It manages to balance a vital housing requirement and clever massing of buildings with a varied yet coherent public realm. Of the five proposals submitted, the winning scheme provides the largest and most flexible public open space at the heart of the site – a crucial requirement.

However, as stated in our earlier Evaluation, none of the schemes managed to achieve a fully satisfactory solution to the many aspects of this complex design challenge. The brief could not encapsulate all requirements, some of which have evolved further through the process and public consultation. In other respects, some aspects of the proposals could be improved.

Primary Recommendations

The following changes would enhance their proposals:

·     The King Street, Church Street, Water Lane Junction should be more sensitively developed as a public open space and inviting entry point to the Riverside. A permeable ‘walk-through’ gateway/landmark building, possibly set back from the street frontage, is required that draws people down Water Lane;

·     The buildings extending from King Street down Water Lane should be more open and permeable;

·     A ‘softening’ of the hard-landscaped area along the Embankment;

·     More trees should be planted;

·     Waterside facilities, particularly working boathouses with dedicated access to the river should be provided; these would work well with pub/restaurant and viewing terraces above overlooking the river;

·     Parking and Servicing bays on Water Lane should be avoided;

·     A comprehensive sustainability and energy strategy should be developed and implemented.

These recommendations are explored in further detail in the context of the proposed scheme in the sections below.

Public Open Space

Where the scheme is arguably at its weakest is at the busy King Street, Church Road, Water Lane Junction which is the primary access point to the riverside. It is important that the design of this ‘entry’ space draw people towards the Riverside.

The demolition of the Santander building affords an opportunity to change the character of this important junction – to open it up, make it more permeable and improve access to the Riverside. This would require a combination of factors working as an integrated whole, including the size/configuration of space, openness and the presence of a permeable ‘gateway’ building (elaborated below), providing an attractive welcoming entrance to the site.

A simple example would be to extend the granite sets proposed for Water Lane across the King Street, London Road and York Street intersection - calming the traffic, indicating pedestrian priority, and ‘leading’ pedestrians down Water Lane to the Riverside.

How this is tackled is, in our view, crucial to the success of the development if it is to have any impact on the regeneration of the town centre. 

Although best embracing the objectives of the DJG Trust in providing a mix of hard and soft landscaping as the central feature of the scheme, the hard landscaping along the Riverside should be reduced in width and ‘softened’ somewhat through the inclusion of more trees and elements such as seating and water features. A child friendly water feature/fountain installation is a must (reference Granary Square at King’s Cross, Burlington House in Piccadilly, Somerset House and Brewery Wharf public squares).

It would make sense to retain the existing trees in this location, and design the hard landscaping around them. More trees could also be provided elsewhere on the site.

More should also be made of the public space where the waterfront ‘ends’ at the brick wall along the west side of the site. This is where the riverside path terminates, with the option of turning right to go up Wharf Lane, as well as providing an access point to the existing listed boathouse adjacent to the site, or indeed access to new jetties, floating pontoons and/or boathouses (covered below). This ‘dead end’ would be a junction and meeting point which could be celebrated more effectively.

Architecture and Massing of Buildings

Although the larger mass of building along the western edge of the site is cleverly disguised by the elegant way it steps down towards the open space, the massing and treatment of the buildings along Water Lane is less successful. It is important that these buildings appear less repetitive and are more permeable, particularly at ground level, ‘opening’ Water Lane more to the interior of the site and Riverside.

It is important that the buildings down Water Lane also successfully link to a ‘Gateway’ building at the site entrance area. Such a building should be distinctive and inviting, set back from the King Street frontage to allow for the creation of public space at this important junction as described above.

Site Uses and Relationship to the River

 A great strength of this scheme is flexible multi-use buildings. These are of a modular nature, making extensions and adaptations for change of use relatively easy and less expensive for retail, commercial and community purposes than with conventional buildings.

However, none of the schemes in our opinion gave sufficient consideration to facilities for water activities. It is particularly surprising that working boathouses with proper access to the river have were not been included in any of the schemes, including the selected scheme. These would work well with pub/restaurant and viewing terraces above overlooking the river.

Floating pontoons/jetties could also be introduced with connections to the boathouses, providing greater access to the river for leisure activities (and possible future use for river taxis).

These core requirements may not have been made clear enough in the competition brief, and should be addressed in further design development proposals. Water based activities are an essential requirement, requiring building types that are flood resilient and should be more specific in their design and construction.

Parking/Traffic

The winning scheme is to be commended for enhance EPI servicing, by relocating the loading bays to the East side of the bridge on a ‘new dock’ above the slipway, directly at the bottom of Water Lane. This has the added benefit of extending and separating the riverfront ‘town square’ area from motor vehicles.

However, to maximise unobstructed pedestrian access down Water Lane and to enable clear two-way vehicular movement, no parking/servicing bays should be located on Water Lane.

Sustainability

Sustainable design and construction must be at the heart of this project. Sustainability can be approached in many different ways, passive and active, ranging from design considerations, selection of materials, methods of construction, renewable energy technologies, site drainage, water storage systems etc.

This would require a total move away from the use of fossil fuels to embracing low-carbon sustainable energy sources such as provided by air-to-air, air-to-water, geothermal and /or aquathermal heat pump technologies and district heating for which this site is ideally suited with its large open spaces adjacent to the river. Complementary energy sources such as solar photovoltaic panels could be integrated with the relatively large roof areas. Further green technologies such as sustainable urban drainage systems, rainwater harvesting and green walls could work together to make this a largely self-sustaining site.

The selected scheme incorporates many sustainable features such as a flexible modular approach, robust natural materials, optimal daylighting and solar shading. It is essential that a ‘fabric first’ approach with highly insulated airtight construction and heat-recovery ventilation standards be adopted. The flexible nature of this design means that it is possible to incorporate these requirements together with further green infrastructure and energy technologies in a further developed brief.

This project will be delivered on the cusp of massive change in response to the climate emergency. This is an opportunity to deliver a ground-breaking exemplar urban project that encapsulates a sustainable energy strategy with the aim of achieving the government goal of ending fossil fuel heating by 2025, and be future proofed so as to adapt to the rapidly evolving challenges of climate change going forward.  

Twickenham Riverside Park Team     #ParkNotCarPark


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