Phoenix Heights

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Location: Mastmaker Road, Isle of Dogs, London.

Client: Ballymore/One Housing Group

Project Year: 2009

Cost: Over £2m

4 Mastmaker Road is a high quality mixed tenure housing project in a high density location with accommodation suitable for families. The project was commissioned by the Ballymore Group and designed by Brady Mallalieu Architects. The social and affordable housing is managed by One Housing Group.

Just south of Canary Wharf the site forms part of the western edge of the Millenium Quarter. This masterplan stipulates a gradual reduction in the height of buildings from Canary Wharf to the north to the residential areas on the Isle of Dogs to the south. East-west linkages are also identified in the masterplan to help integrate the merging Millenium Quarter with the existing Barkantine Estate to the west. One such linkage runs across the southern perimeter of the site, its full width being completed when the adjacent site to the south is developed. The site is very close to public transport links provided by South Quay DLR and Canary Wharf underground station.

The urban design of the proposals negotiates a tricky shift in scale between the low rise Barkantine Estate to the west and the high rise Millenium Quarter to the east. This is achieved using a combination of low and high rise elements:

• Three to seven storey high buildings create positive outside spaces and contribute to the streetscape of Mastmaker Road and Byng Street. Townhouses can be entered directly from the street and have buffer spaces created by planters, entrance canopies and front gardens. Greenwalls with integrated birdboxes add greenery and encourage wildlife whilst roof terraces and projecting bays overlook the street. Two south facing courtyards are included which are linked by a community strip that incorporates community allotments and a community centre with a double height entrance space, training facilities, music recording room, meeting rooms and a rooftop sports pitch. A café/retail space is also provided at the corner of Byng Street and Mastmaker Road contributing to the activity of the area. A basement allows vehicles to park away from pedestrians.

• Two towers respond to the high rise nature of the emerging Millenium Quarter. The towers grow out of the low rise elements avoiding dead spaces at street level and employ an architectural strategy that opens interior spaces to sunlight and distant views across London. As such the skyline of the towers has been eroded to create roof terraces and a distinctive profile that contributes to the wider cityscape.

The elevations of the building are deliberately varied to allow the large building form to respond to local conditions along different edges and created an aesthetic which would not be spoiled by inhabitation: Zinc cladding reinforces the corner of Mastmaker Road and Byng Street and echoes the muted office aesthetic of Canary Wharf. Larch timber weatherboarding is used on the low rise western elevation to private gardens and the playground. Patches of red and orange fibre cement provide a warm contrast to the commercial aesthetic of nearby office buildings. Canopies and projecting balconies make the most of distant views at high level. The organization of the elevation is based upon variation and incident as an antidote to repetition and monotony. This is achieved by using a rainscreen cladding system which is fixed back to a reinforced concrete structure resting upon piled foundations.

The building is connected to the nearby Barkantine Estate Combined Heat and Power network and includes greenwalls, bird boxes, bat boxes, insect bricks and biodiversity roofs which contribute to its ‘Very Good’ EcoHomes rating.

Overall the project contains 199 homes contained in two towers (20 and 23 storeys) and five low rise buildings (3-7 storeys) organized around two south facing courtyards. Homes are provided based upon the following mix: 49x 4B7P, 1x 4B6P, 3x 3B6P, 9x 3B5P, 71x 2B4P, 22x 2B3P and 44x 1B2P. The tenure of the homes is split between private (29%), shared ownership (22%) and social rented (49%). There are 58 different unit types used in the project providing a high level of variation: The high proportion of family sized homes are located at the base of the building having direct access to rear gardens, a playground and courtyard areas. Smaller homes are located higher up in the tower elements of the project having private balconies and roof terraces enjoying views across London.

The mixture of tenures, unit sizes and unit types encourages the creation of a balanced, sustainable community, attracting single and dual occupants as well as families. The mix also helps to encourage integration and to promote acceptance between different groups

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Shared garden [Photograph: VIEW/Dennis Gilbert]

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Communal allotments and community centre [Photograph: VIEW/Dennis Gilbert]

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Community centre interior [Photograph: VIEW/Dennis Gilbert]