A tale of two corners

A comparative analysis of recently completed developments in Walthamstow

Written by Alastair Crocket & Philip Nicolas, members of AE17

During the summer of 2018, we became aware of two active construction sites close to one another at the northern end of Hoe Street. The sites are 48 Hoe Street, E17 4PG and 66-68 Hoe Street, returning to 2 Gaywood Road, E17 4QA. The brief for these sites were similar, however the more that we examined the two projects, the more contrasting they became. Both had the challenge of a corner plot, both involved commercial and residential use, both used brickwork with a massing that presented three storeys to Hoe Street and lower elevations on to the side streets. Through this short article, we shall appraise these two projects and consider the clearly contrasting outcomes.

We began our comparison with a review of the information that had been submitted to Waltham Forest to deliver the planning consent for the projects.

48 Hoe Street (163726) provided a concise 14 page Design / Access / Sustainability Statement for a commercial unit (Class A1) and 4no. flats of 3 x 1bed, 1 x 2bed (Class C3), alongside 13 drawings up to 1:100 scale. The document includes no visual material to describe the proposals beyond the two-dimensional elevational drawings that are duplicated from within the drawing set.

66-68 Hoe Street (160314) provided a detailed 67 page Design & Access Statement showing commercial unit/s and 7no. residential units of 2 x 1bed, 2 x 2bed, 3 x 3bed in fully coloured and material textured images alongside 16 drawings up to 1:50 scale. This was complimented with a flood risk assessment, daylight and sunlight assessment, air quality assessment and environmental statement.

The proposals varied on their retention against new build intentions.

The 48 Hoe Street site was smaller and was supposed to be an extension of an existing building with an extra storey and larger rear addition whilst the larger site at 66-68 Hoe St was a complete new-build. We understand that, due to some structural issues, the existing building at 48 was demolished and a completely new building was built with the proposed extension.  This was going to be a more challenging project as you start with compromise from the outset.  

Vision     

The no. 48 Hoe St proposals stuck closely to the existing built footprint, taking cues from the neighbouring buildings.

The no. 66-68 Hoe Street proposals were more expressive, allowing a curve at the corner of the two streets.

Context

Both schemes have similar contextual environments; a busy road to the front, two storey pitched roof neighbours along the terrace with ground floor commercial usage, a primary south easterly aspect and a more residential character to their side return streets. In terms of their response, the no. 48 development drops dramatically from three storeys to one on Hawthorne Road whilst the no. 66-68 project steps gradually in a similar manner to the neighbouring houses on Gaywood Road before turning in to a terrace house where it joins the existing.

48 Hoe Street: Google street view image (August 2017)
66-68 Hoe Street: Google Street View image (June 2016)

Flat design and layout

Both have designed flats in compliance with the London Housing Design Guide, and claim to have LifeTime Homes compliance (since replaced by the Mayor of London’s Housing SPG standards), but the no. 66-68 development has gone beyond this including careful consideration of how spaces could be used by those with mobility issues. The no. 48 development provides no evidence to substantiate the claim. The layouts within the 48 project include lots of oddly shaped and proportioned rooms with a considerable footprint lost to circulation space. Kitchens have been positioned at the back of living spaces and will suffer from poor daylight to worksurfaces. The incomplete furniture layouts shown within the plans raise concerns that these rooms may not be easily furnished. All but one of the bedrooms open directly on to the street. Within no. 66-68, the layouts have a rigour and clear consideration of how the spaces are to be used with full and logical furniture positions shown. The majority of bedrooms are rectilinear and kitchens have glazing nearby. The challenges of the plot have also limited non-street facing bedrooms at no. 66-68, however they have cleverly included secondary side windows to ground floor windows to improve privacy.

Amenity space

Two of the flats within no. 48 have private amenity space annotated on plans, although it is difficult to see how this can be used when one is dominated by gas meter boxes and the other is access to a riser directly from the pavement. They claim to be providing 52.5sqm of communal amenity, however during our recent visit it appeared that only around half of the planned roof terrace was accessible and so we doubt this has been delivered as promised.

At 66-68, balcony spaces are generous and well planned as spill-out spaces from living areas. The generous rear garden can form excellent communal amenity, although it was not yet finished at the time of our visit.

Street frontage

The no. 48 approach to the street at ground level is a relatively modest commercial frontage. We are unclear if occupied, however the rolled down shutters do not provide an enlivening aspect to Hoe Street. 66-68 has excelled in addressing the street, with heavily glazed elevations including a clearly expensive curved glass corner. Now occupied by a popular and buzzy looking hair salon, it acts as as a real beacon amongst the existing retail offer.

48 Hoe Street frontage
48 Hoe Street from Hawthorne Road
66-68 Hoe Street
66-68 Hoe Street from Gaywood Road

Materials

The materials at no. 48 are somewhere between modest and shoddy. The brickwork is clearly a cheap product and the efforts to enliven it with the odd dark or light brick give it an uneasy patchwork. The pointing is poor and there are areas where it unexpectedly changes. The uPVC windows are cheap with chunky frames and heavy trickle vents which are disappointing to see in a prominent new build. The roofing tiles are an imitation slate, which are too shiny and smooth, particularly when paired unsympathetically with a thick grey concrete ridge tile. The parapet to the neighbour is odd, particularly as it doesn’t appear on the planning drawings at all. Use of leadwork to cover the brick is a novel approach to resolving the issue.

At no. 66-68, materials have been developed from the planning drawings and use a modern approach to brick cladding. This has allowed them to achieve the interesting and expressive facades of dark brown and white brickwork. Header bricks define the floor positions, and occasional stacked columns provide borders to chequerboard infill. The parapet is a slim metal edge to allow the feeling of a continuous brick volume. On the side return to the neighbour, standing seam cladding forms a sharp party wall. Bespoke metalwork forms juliette balconies. At ground level, hard-wearing steel defines the retail units and has been used to deal with the dirt and everyday challenges that occur at the bottom of buildings. The entire composition is unique and successfully dresses this corner plot, particularly on the curve.

Windows

Considering the windows within no. 48, the first impression is that they are proportionally too small for the scale of the building. Their position relative to the brickwork is not defined sufficiently, producing a flat dullness.

The windows at no. 66-68 have a satisfying depth, by that of a brick which gives the building a certain weight and implies that it is made of solid stuff. The glazing sizes are generously full height and you imagine that they contain well lit and ventilated spaces. Finished in anodized aluminium, these are built to last maintaining their finish. Practically, the inward opening windows allow the flat owner to clean from the inside.

Conclusion

We hope that you have enjoyed our comparison between these two projects, which we have used to demonstrate the spectrum of newly built accommodation in Walthamstow. We welcome the reader to draw their own conclusion on the relative successes of these projects, but note the correlation between the drawn and submitted application materials, and resulting built forms.

48 Hoe Street from Hawthorne Road
66-68 Hoe Street from Gaywood Road

1 thought on “A tale of two corners

  1. madeleineruthmunday

    Really enjoyed this comparison of the two sites, especially as we walked past the 66 site just this weekend and admired it. Why can’t we have better design like this?

    Reply

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