STEPHEN PROCTOR OF PROCTOR AND MATTHEWS: .STEPHEN PROCTOR, PROCTOR AND MATTHEWS: ABODE, NEW HALL,

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  • STEPHEN PROCTOR OF PROCTOR AND MATTHEWS: ABODE, NEW HALL, HARLOW, AN URBAN EXTENSION WITH STRONG IDENTITYThe Road Ahead, Velux training centre, 4 December 2002

    Design for Homes 2003

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    The Road Ahead, Velux training centre, 4 December 2002

    STEPHEN PROCTOR

    What we are all discussing is turning spaces into places. I would like to talk about one particular development at New Hall, Harlow and how, as designers, we have attempted to create a sense of place and identity.

    As a practice, Proctor and Matthews is very interested in context and locality, but we are also interested in the media world: the world of Jamie Oliver - cooking as theatre or the idea of Diurmud Gavin and the designer garden. The way lifestyles change through media influence. As architects we like to look at historical precedents, and typologies but we also like to question the final outcome in terms of dwellings which will encourage and explore 21st Century lifestyles.

    New Hall [1] is an initiative by the two landowners, Jon and William Moen. They have commissioned a masterplan designed by Roger Evans Associates, which as a practice we were not involved in and I do not particularly want to talk in detail about the urban design strategy.

    Our client for this project is Copthorn Homes, who I believe have been very enlightened in terms of encouraging a new approach to this kind of greenfield urban development, a site typically developed with standard house types - six pack architecture.

    Our involvement came about via a competition, a design and developer competition, for one part of the first phase, to the

    [1]

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    The Road Ahead, Velux training centre, 4 December 2002

    north side of the central road - parcel 1B. Phase 1 for the north has outline planning permission for 440 homes and is just over 1.9 hectares, where we are producing around 82 units. Density for parcels of this scheme range from between 40 and 45 units per hectare.

    Eventually this is a development with a proposal for about 2,500 new dwellings very close to Church Langley. The illustration shows Harlow New Town the development area to the east and Church Langley to the south of it [2].

    [2]

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    The Road Ahead, Velux training centre, 4 December 2002

    The masterplan was prepared by Roger Evans [3]. It was begun in about 1992/93 and has been a long haul in terms of negotiating with the Highways Department to create a fresh approach to highway design. The red line on the illustration identifies the parcel of land we are working on.

    [3]

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    We are used to working with masterplans already in existence. It is something we have done here, it is something we have done at the Greenwich Millennium Village. It is very useful to have a design code at New Hall that is not totally prescriptive but allows exploration and innovation - that sets a series of rules that we have been able to work with, rules that really determine general massing structure, where local marker buildings occur and the nature of the streets [4]. This is a lattice structure, a sort of open lattice of lanes, streets and mews areas. Illustrations are extracted from the design code. The code identifies key characteristic spaces, the village green and key junctions or road intersections.

    [4]

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    The competition entry [5]. We responded very quickly to the design codes, and began by developing an architectural vocabulary, that comes about as a direct result of the masterplan layout and the strategy for the roads. What I am trying to show here is a holistic approach. This is very much a team effort in terms of working with Copthorn Homes, Roger Evans and Jon and William Moen at New Hall Projects, to actually develop an aesthetic, which responds to the road network strategy. The architectural vocabulary, which resulted, is really focussed on the issues of threshold. I will talk a little bit about that later.

    [5]

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    Illustrated here from the code are parking spaces, very much ad-hoc/irregular layouts for car spaces [6]. This is clearly a townscape driven masterplan. Somebody earlier mentioned the work of Gordon Cullen who coined the phrase townscape. I was very lucky in my early career to work with Gordon on some of his work in London Docklands. Attitudes to the creation of space, integration of parking, the hierarchy and structure of spatial sequences embodied within the New Hall plan are clearly influenced by Gordon Cullens work.

    The final masterplan [7]. Here we have a variety of unit types ranging from large houses onto what is known as The Chase, which has been conceived as the main market street, to individual houses, and terraces of two to four bedroomed houses. There are small two bedroomed house clusters to the centre of Parcel 1b. I like the term chauffeur unit - mentioned earlier by Mel Dunbar. I have not heard that expression before, but the building in the mews areas utilise such a unit to provide good overlooking and the self policing of space.

    [7]

    [6]

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    The model images show the first part of parcel 1B [8], the remainder is to the north. There are little indicative drawings from the design code which give clues as to how the spaces should be constructed [9]. Again, these have been conceived with careful negotiations with the Highways Department - trees in junctions and using well designed landscape devices as traffic calming measures.

    [9]

    [8]

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    I think as an architect working within an established masterplan we are very interested in the creation of shared spaces, shared surfaces, surfaces that really do not have car priority. Like many of the previous schemes we have seen in the last presentation, here we are including double garage provision. There are spaces for more than one car in certain locations and we are providing somewhere between 1.5 and 1.7 spaces per dwelling across the development. Through design we are attempting to lessen the impact of cars and parking and streets and lanes are not dominated by double garage doors. The mews space illustrated hopefully indicates this approach [10, 11]. The scale of these spaces is very important. They are tight urban spaces almost medieval in height and width. This leads onto the whole issue of how to create thresholds - a transition from public to private space at the back of pavement. We are constantly pushing the boundaries in terms of density of development where land is at a premium and that starts to impact on the design - on issues of how you actually enter the buildings and what the relationship is between the inside and the outside and even to the architectural detail.

    [10]

    [11]

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