Churchill Gardens Estate
We were invited to participate in this limited competition, run by Westminster City Council in 2019, which called for proposals to extend the very fine Grade 2 Listed Churchill Gardens Estate in Pimlico, west London. The aim was to provide a mix of social and market housing, improving its relationship with the River Thames. The estate is very big and unusually consistent; it exhibits very strong formal and spatial order. It is characterised by mid-rise concrete, slab blocks, spaced around large communal gardens. At its northern edge, this emphatic typological repetition is softened by lower blocks, and a parade or shops; and in its centre, the urban order is broken up by a winding road; creating what is seen as a pseudo-Picturesque composition off-set and mis-aligned blocks. The result is a pleasing contrast between the strongly formal and informal, glimpses as well as vistas. The architects, Powell and Moya, were arguably less subtle in their reaction towards the river's edge, and like a lot of modernist masterplans, the estate suffers from a rather grandiose and yet deferential attitude towards traffic engineering.
Our proposals seek a more urbane relationship between the 'gardens' and the river edge. We extend the language, scale and mass and bulk of the existing buildings - "rhyming" with the existing pattern - proposing a series of new and refurbished buildings grouped around a new south-facing, river facing, hard-landscaped public square. The scheme looks to create a more socially and programatically-mixed edge to this vast city quarter, one with a more civic character. Sadly, we did not win.
The competition called for a number of options for different housing tenures to be distributed across proposals. In particular, some provision for housing for the elderly was required. Interestingly, towers provide ideal accommodation for older people - as access is simplified via lifts - and then the task is to create a series of layers in plan and section to create a good mix of communal spaces, more or less available to residents and the general public. We proposed to retain some of the remaining fragments of the Victorian city that pre-date the estate, seeking to incorporate them into a new, deliberately collage-like composition. We proposed deep facades to be made of glazed ceramic tiles, creating a strong background for the changing lives of inhabitants, and the fluctuating phenomena of sunlight and shadows in this dramatic riverine setting.