Peabody has submitted plans for its vast Thamesmead site in south-east London.

Masterplanned by Proctor & Matthews Architects alongside Mecanoo and landscape architects Turkington Martin the new scheme will deliver 1,500 new homes and 10,000sq m of commercial, retail and leisure space in the Thamesmead area and “remedy earlier random interventions to create a coherent community”.

Thamesmead, which straddles Greenwich and Bexley boroughs, is roughly the same size as the whole of central London. It was developed in the late 1960s under the guidance of GLC division architect Robert Rigg who was responsible for including large areas of open space and lakes intended to create an atmosphere of calm. Despite this Thamesmead suffered reputation problems not helped by being the backdrop to Stanley Kubrick’s distopian film A Clockwork Orange.

According to Peabody the new proposals will create a linear focus to the neighbourhood which runs from Southmere Lake in the north to Abbey Wood station in the south. The plans also address issues with the Harrow Manorway road which has acted as a barrier to integration of the area.

In April Peabody brought in former chief executive of the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation John Lewis to spearhead the scheme.

A detailed application for a new civic quarter has also been drawn up by Proctor & Matthews and Mecanoo. Pitman Tozer, Bell Phillips and Project Orange are part of the wider design team for later development phases.

Chief executive Stephen Howlett said: “Thamesmead is a special part of London with huge potential for the future. The creation of 1,500 new homes and a new high street as part of the Abbey Wood and South Thamesmead Housing Zone, together with the arrival of Crossrail means we also have the opportunity to create hundreds of new jobs and attract new business.

“Peabody is committed to working with local residents to create the dynamic and thriving place where people aspire to live, work and visit.

“We are particularly excited about the design quality of these proposals, and are proud that the plans have evolved from extensive conversations with people who live in South Thamesmead over the last two years.”

Active frontages for commercial, retail and leisure spaces will create a mixed-use area with a high-quality public realm, activating the lakeside and improving the experience of the surrounding landscape, he said.

The development will be built in four phases, with the civic quarter due to commence in early 2017 and the final phase completing in 2021.

The architects’ view

Four principal design approaches are expressed in a design code that defines the scheme and the four character areas:

Southmere Lane
This secondary route runs parallel to Harrow Manorway. Designed as a linear neighbourhood focus which meanders across the existing urban grid, it acts as an anchor for a visually enriched townscape, and offers a safe and logical route for cyclists and pedestrians.

In a reinterpretation of late 19th-century Peabody buildings, clusters of connected (yet differently sized) residential blocks will be grouped around raised shared courtyards, creating smaller communities within the larger whole and enlivened by active frontages with a mix of uses.

Squares and Specials
New squares include a lakeside civic square and smaller squares forming neighbourhood focal points. ‘Specials’ buildings – such as a new Library or two ‘flatiron’ residential buildings – will be visible from a wide area, different in shape and height from the Ensembles and accentuating specific townscape moments.

Connection to landscape
Southmere Lane will act as the main link to the landscape surrounding South Thamesmead, with smaller scale connections reinforcing the main pedestrian links.

The civic quarter – detailed planning application

The new Thamesmead civic quarter by Proctor & Matthews Architects and Mecanoo occupies a large site on the edge of Southmere Lake. A stalled regeneration scheme by Gallions Housing Association (subsequently acquired by Peabody in 2014) had seen much of the original masterplan demolished, and with it many of Thamesmead’s community and retail facilities.

The new civic square will act as the focal point for local residents and visitors, and restore high quality community facilities to the area. Opening towards Southmere Lake, it emanates the qualities of a traditional European square or piazza: an attractive environment that allows street life to thrive.

Ensemble blocks define the square. While each has its own distinctive character, they are tied together through a uniform façade articulation. The predominant material is brick, in response to residents’ desire for contrast with existing concrete buildings. Courtyards are differentiated in architectural language, detail, materials and colour. A five-storey building height clearly defines the square, while maintaining a sense of openness towards the lake. The first two levels are articulated as a colonnade, activated at ground level with shop frontages and building entrances, while a lighter rhythm is introduced on the upper levels. Beyond the fifth storey, further residential levels are set back to maximise sunlight into the square.

The majority of apartments have dual aspect, with private balconies designed to maximize views and exposure to natural light. Raised gardens and recessed ground level courtyards within each block provide an element of variety and valuable shared open space for residents.

The development contains a broad range of dwelling sizes from one bedroom apartments to four bedroom townhouses, and the design team and Peabody has worked closely with CBRE Residential to provide a residential mix that delivers high quality housing across all tenures, with 45% affordable housing.

Proctor & Matthews Architects has also created a new civic building, housing a library, nursery and gym, to act as a social hub and the compositional focal point of the square. A three dimensional triangular form tapers from a single storey at the lake edge, rising to five storeys in response to the buildings surrounding the square. Its principal elevation is punctuated by a water clock tower, extending the inherent aquatic theme of Thamesmead and forming an important townscape marker.

One of the building ensembles designed by Mecanoo incorporates Blewbury House and Tilehurst Point. These are existing 13-storey residential blocks, and the last remnants of the 1967 masterplan located on site. They were recently refurbished and will – alongside three later residential blocks and a NHS health centre – be retained and carefully integrated into the new scheme.

Source: Peabody