Arcadia

Report by CABE
- Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment -
on Arcadia Development

Latest report 14 February 2008

Arcadia Development

Review date: 11 February 2008
Lead designer: HKR Architects with Foster and Partners and John Pardy
Client: Glenkerrin
Local authority: London: Ealing
Location: Ealing Broadway
Region: London

Description: Retail-led mixed use development opposite Ealing Broadway Station, bridging the railway line to form a link between the town centre and park. The scheme includes a tall residential building.

CABE also commented on this scheme on 18 October 2007.
Overall comment

In broad terms we remain supportive of a mixed use development for this site which has the potential to redefine Ealing town centre. Whilst we appreciate the efforts made to respond to CABE’s previous comments at a detailed level, we feel that these mainly constitute tweaking rather than the step change that we felt was necessary. We feel that the frailties of the masterplan, exposed by the new tower, remain.

Whilst there is a positive relationship between the tower and the station and increased north south permeability, the lack of connection between the tower and the central piazza remains. We feel that the two major issues of making clear routes through the site, and coordinating the scale and massing of the entire scheme need to be revisited so that the development forms a coherent whole in the urban fabric of Ealing. 

Public Realm

The public realm proposed is not yet successfully resolved for such a prominent development in the heart of Ealing. The introduction of a stand-alone tower has the potential to create a hierarchy of spaces with different characters and purposes. The space relating to the station will greatly improve first impressions of Ealing town centre, even though balancing the requirements of vehicles and pedestrians will be challenging in the detailed design of this space. The triangular area at the centre of the scheme, the central piazza, will provide a pedestrian-only space that contrasts well with both Haven Green and the station plaza. However, we do not think that, the revised rotation of the tower has resolved our concerns with links and pedestrian flow between these spaces. The increased permeability through the site to Haven Green, provided by the stand alone tower, is a positive element, however, the opportunity is somewhat lost by the canopy covering this area.

We feel that, despite the attempts made by the rotation of the tower and chamfering of the lower floors of block E, the relationship between the main development with the central piazza and the station square and tower remains poor. Indeed, with the rotation, greater confusion has arisen. The feet of the tower form a grand arch which, as a monumental architectural gesture, should flow into a space of similar significance.  In this instance however, it directs pedestrians to the retail units in the eastern wall of the block E. We do not think that they are adequate to address the space or close the vista from the station plaza; this does not create a successful entrance into the central piazza. We also find it disappointing that the resultant windy conditions that these changes have created in this location have had to be mitigated with the inclusion of a large canopy to seal the air space between the tower and block E.

We still consider the alleyways between the blocks of residential accommodation, albeit increased in width, to be ungenerous of streets of such height and an unacceptable solution. 

We remain unconvinced by the relationship between this development and Haven Green. The lack of resolution of the southern edge of Haven Green, with regard to the bus lane and pedestrian routes, has resulted in a scheme that fails to take full advantage of the benefits of this generous green space.

Housing

We have concerns of the living conditions of some of the apartments, particularly in the finger blocks of buildings D and E. These concerns relate to the significant numbers of north-facing apartments overlooking high-walled courtyards, the privacy of inhabitable rooms on internal corners and the courtyards generally. We would encourage the design team to provide more frequent vertical circulation cores to reduce the amount of long dark corridors. While we note that some indirect daylight has been provided to the corridors it is their length that remains a concern.

The daylight studies provided show that the garden courtyard spaces, particularly in buildings D and E, will be consistently overshadowed. We sense that an approach that creates separate residential buildings, allowing some south light to penetrate through the blocks could be more successful in creating pleasant useable spaces. Overall, in our view, this area of the scheme is demonstrably struggling to accommodate this quantum of development at a satisfactory quality of internal and external spaces and requires a fundamental rethink.

Tall buildings

Whilst we think that a convincing case has been made for the principle of tall buildings on this site, we are not yet convinced that their impact has been assessed in relation to the broader townscape. If constructed, a tall building in this location would be a radical departure from the predominantly suburban character and existing scale of Ealing. We are aware that Ealing is a town on the verge of significant development pressure but there seems to be no vision in place for of this transformation.  Development of this scheme may set a precedent for the nature of further developments of similar intensity and height in the area. We urge the local authority to develop a tall buildings policy now, which should include ‘mid height’ blocks as these have almost as much impact as individual towers. They should ensure that proposed developments of this scale conform to a specific vision for the future of Ealing, rather than letting them drive the agenda. 

In this location the tower will undoubtedly be a landmark and we would expect to see proposals of the highest quality. We recognise that the new building makes a strong architectural statement and has the potential to be of sufficient architectural distinction, however there is still much work to be done to convince us that this level of quality has yet been achieved. We are pleased to see the inclusion of accessible public space in the tower with a restaurant overlooking the station plaza.

Whilst the external structure allows a level of flexibility in the treatment of the apartment exteriors, we have reservations regarding the scale and construction of the mega structure. The success of the architecture will, in part, be dependent on the quality of the detailing, however, we are not convinced that our overall concerns can be met by architectural refinements alone.

We remain unconvinced by the scale and massing of the three finger blocks to the northern part of the site, bridging over the railway line. However, we do feel that by varying the height of the three finger blocks, creating a wave like rhythm, a better result has been achieved. The relationship between the three fingers and the tall tower is more comfortable; however, it is disappointing that their design has not been reconfigured to work more convincingly with the tower.

Sustainability

We welcome the aspirations of the project team to provide 20% of its energy consumption from renewable sources, as well as providing central heat and power (CHP). We trust that the potential for recycling of waste heat from retail and commercial units, for the benefit of residential accommodation, will also be exploited. However, we are not yet convinced that the environmental strategy is being thought of as an integral part of the design thinking. This comment applies in particular to the finger blocks to the north of the site. The facades of these buildings seem to have little response to different orientations in terms of the amount of glazing. We also note that natural ventilation in summer will be difficult to achieve for all single aspect apartments and for those apartments facing noisy roads or places, whose residents may not be able to leave windows open overnight. We also think that for a scheme of this significance, a target of EcoHomes ‘very good’ is not sufficiently ambitious.

We feel that this proposal has had the opportunity to resolve the concerns we have consistently raised and are disappointed to see that they have not been addressed. We do not think that this scheme is of the standard that Ealing deserves and are unable to offer it our support. The proposal does not meet the criteria set out in the CABE/English Heritage Guidance on Tall Buildings nor does it meet the design criteria set out in PPS1. We think that this scheme should not be given planning approval in its current form.

Previous report

Arcadia Development

Review date: 18 October 2007
Lead designer: Foster and Partners
Client: Glenkerrin
Local authority: London: Ealing
Location: Ealing Broadway
Region: London

Description: Retail-led mixed use development opposite Ealing Broadway Station, bridging over the railway line to form a link between the town centre and park. The scheme includes a residential tall building.



Overall comment

We welcome the design development that has taken place since our previous review of this scheme. In broad terms we are supportive of this mixed use project, which has the potential to redefine Ealing town centre. We think that the introduction of an additional architectural practice to the design team has had a positive impact, but the new tower proposal has exposed some frailties of the masterplan. In the end, we think it will eventually result in a more successful scheme. A better relationship with the station has now been achieved and we welcome the increased north south permeability.  However, there now seems to be a complete lack of connection between the tower and the previous scheme - the massing of the whole project should be rethought together. The routes through the site, and the scale and massing of the scheme needs to be revisited so that the development forms a coherent whole. 

Urban design

With the introduction of a stand-alone tower the scheme now has the potential to create a hierarchy of spaces with different characters and purposes. The space relating to the station will greatly improve first impressions of Ealing town centre. Balancing the requirements of vehicles and pedestrians will be an interesting challenge in the detailed design of this space. The triangular area at the centre of the scheme will provide a pedestrian-only space that contrasts well with both Haven Green and the station plaza.  The challenge now is to resolve the links and pedestrian flow between these spaces.

We feel that the finger blocks to the north of the site should achieve a better relationship with Haven Green. There seems to be reluctance to take full advantage of the benefits of this generous green space either in creating elevations that overlook it or routes giving access alongside it. It might be helpful to produce a drawing that highlights all the public spaces, including the station, the square and the Green, to show the relationships between them and the sequence of spaces being proposed for Ealing town centre.

We think that a convincing case has been made for the principle of tall buildings on this site, however we are not yet convinced that their impact has been assessed in relation to the broader townscape. If constructed, a tall building in this location would be a radical departure from the predominantly suburban character of Ealing. We are aware that Ealing is a town on the verge of significant development pressure but there seems to be no vision in place for the nature of this transformation.  Development of the nature of this scheme may set a precedent for further developments of similar intensity and height in the area. We urge the local authority to develop a tall buildings policy now, which should include ‘mid height’ blocks as these have every bit as much impact as individual towers, to ensure that developments of this scale conform to a specific vision for the future of Ealing rather than driving the agenda. 

Urban blocks

Our main reservation about the urban design of this scheme relates to the three finger blocks to the northern part of the site, bridging over the railway line. We remain unconvinced by their scale and massing.  We do not think these are successful in terms of townscape or architectural expression, indeed the introduction of the new tower brings even more attention to our concerns.   The relationship between the three rising fingers and the tall tower is uncomfortable; there is no logic to their individual heights and it is disappointing that their design has not been reconfigured to work more convincingly with the tower.

The increased permeability through the site to Haven Green is encouraging, however the elevations along these routes through lack the resolution required for a detailed planning application. We still consider the alleyways, albeit increased in width, between the blocks of residential accommodation, to be ungenerous and an unacceptable solution. Additionally the eastern wall of the block now exposed by the separation of the tower comprising standard retail units, does not adequately address the space or close the vista from the station plaza. The whole route between the new square under the tower, and then into the centre of the proposal needs to be clarified and rethought. 

We suspect that the apartments at lower levels facing onto the courtyards will be unacceptably gloomy. To achieve pleasant useable courtyards may require larger garden spaces between buildings of this scale and orientation. We sense that an approach that creates separate buildings, rather than a single mega block and that possibly re-distributes some of the development could be more successful. Overall, in our view, this area of the scheme is demonstrably struggling to accommodate this quantum of development at a satisfactory quality of internal and external spaces and requires a fundamental rethink. Previously we indicated that a different tower form may require a different and more fragmented arrangement than a single mega block, we now believe this to be the case and strongly suggest that this is explored.

At a more detailed level, we think that long dark corridors currently shown for both the affordable and market housing should be avoided.  We would encourage the design team to provide more frequent vertical circulation cores. Significant numbers of north-facing apartments overlooking high-walled courtyards should be avoided. 

Tall buildings

In this location the tower will undoubtedly be a landmark and we would expect to see proposals of the highest quality. We are now satisfied that the new building makes a strong architectural statement and has the potential to be of sufficient architectural distinction, however there is still much work to be done to convince us that this level of quality has actually been achieved. 

The success of the architecture will be dependent on the quality of the detailing. Whilst the external structure allows a level of flexibility in the treatment of the apartment exteriors, we have reservations regarding the scale and construction of the mega structure and we suggest this is progressed.  There was insufficient detail presented for us to assess this aspect, but we have confidence that the design team can address our concerns. 

Development is needed on the floor plans. It will be essential that such key aspects are conditioned through the planning process. We are pleased to see the inclusion of publicly accessible space in the tower.  Whilst a restaurant in the space below the apartments does not have the gravitas of a viewing level at the top of the tower it will engage with the station forecourt and help to enliven this space. 

Overall, whilst we think the tower has potential, we do not yet think that it meets the criteria set out in the CABE / English Heritage Guidance on tall buildings.

Sustainability

We welcome the aspirations of the project team to provide 20% of its energy consumption from renewable sources, as well as providing central heat and power (CHP). We trust that the potential for recycling of waste heat from retail and commercial units, for the benefit of residential accommodation, will also be exploited. However, we are not yet convinced that the environmental strategy is being thought of as an integral part of the design thinking. This comment applies in particular to the finger blocks to the north of the site. The facades of these buildings seem to have little response to different orientations in terms of the amount of glazing. We also note that natural ventilation in summer will be difficult to achieve for all single aspect apartments and for those apartments facing noisy roads or places, whose residents may not be able to leave windows open overnight. We also think that for a scheme of this significance, a target of EcoHomes ‘very good’ does not seem sufficiently ambitious.

Whilst we congratulate the client for appointing new architects that have a proven track record in designing high quality tall buildings, we are not yet convinced that the scheme works together as a whole. The new tower is clearly an improvement, but we think that the same step change in thinking needs to be applied to the whole project as a totality and until then we would not be able to give the scheme our support.