Tell us about the early design brief
We were given a very comprehensive design brief detailing the exact number and mix of residential accommodation required for the London 2012 Games and legacy aspect of the project, and clear guidance on how to reconcile the two criteria. The brief also included design guidelines and direction on massing strategies, window design and construction materials.
What inspired your design concept?
Our design concept for Plot N26 can be read as a creative response to the masterplan and design guidelines. We challenged assumptions regarding the standard componentry for the residential blocks to exploit design opportunities. For example, the plot includes increased dual aspect units, a low-rise terraced housing typology (the only terraced housing within the Athletes’ Village), significantly larger balconies than the Athletes’ Village benchmark, and high-quality, frameless glazed winter gardens for all family-sized apartments. These are homes with identity – integral differentiation within the façade design means that residents are able to confidently point to their home and say ‘I live there!’
We also selected natural and recycled materials, including a brick specifically developed for this project composed of exposed recycled glass aggregate, to provide a difference to the predominance of pre-cast concrete panels within the Village.
What challenges did you face along the way?
We developed detailed proposals for the plots to take into account all the restrictions and constraints arising from issues including infrastructure, Olympic Games overlay criteria and standard UK industry cost and quality restrictions. While our proposals adhered to the urban design strategies imposed, they also exploited any opportunities that remained. In particular, we developed a new terraced housing typology for the masterplan, prioritising external space, daylight and layers of privacy.
What about specific design challenges?
The development of a complex residential design in the context of onerous design guidelines and additional compliance criteria and within a finite programme period was a clear design challenge for the team, but the success of the Village in both Games and legacy mode is testament to the team’s success in overcoming the challenges. We often challenged design assumptions and debated with other plot architects and with the various design review panels associated with the masterplan to ensure a high quality and coherent piece of city.
Inevitably, cost and programme were the key challenges in the project, and a great deal of lateral thinking was required to respond to normal and abnormal construction challenges without any loss of momentum.
How did it feel to be involved in such an important British project?
Being part of this process, and of course the event, has been extremely rewarding. Throughout the design, development and realisation of the project, there was a palpable sense of momentum and genuine purpose, with the London 2012 Games as the ultimate goal.