Specifier Review
DLA Architecture

DLA completes £21M community project in Hackney

DLA Architecture has completed and handed over a significant new collection of buildings comprising community space and housing in Hackney. 

The £21 million project was an enabling development between developer, Thornsett, The London Diocesan Fund (LDF) and The Parochial Church Council (PCC) of St John at Hackney.

The scheme is designed around the existing Grade I listed St Augustine Tower and the Grade II* listed St John at Hackney Church. The main driver of the project was that St John at Hackney Church was in a poor state of repair and urgently required refurbishment at substantial cost. A significant proportion of these costs were covered by proceeds raised by the development.

The design of Hackney Gardens was developed in response to the Local Authority Area Action Plan and provides engaging new community spaces alongside 58 new homes. New provisions include a community/hub space and Scouts facility, all handed back to Thornsett’s development partners, in buildings situated around Prodigal Square, a new public space, with its focus being ‘The Prodigal Son’ statue by Charlie Mackesy.

DLA was appointed to masterplan the project in 2011, and has since worked closely with the development partnership, Hackney Council, Historic England, the Conservation Area Advisory Committee (CAAC), local heritage groups and other local stakeholders to deliver a narrative-led, contextual architecture scheme that sits well within its environment and adds value to the community.

Chris Levett, Director at DLA Architecture, said, “We had to be mindful that this is a very sensitive area of Hackney with a number of site constraints, such as its location within the Clapton Square Conservation Area.  Yet, the client needed to maximise the number of new dwellings as well as wanting to create more engaging community spaces for their social benefits.

“We carefully designed a scheme to respond to the direct urban fabric of the locality, with hard and soft landscaped squares, open views of the Church and Tower and new passageways connecting to the high street. The position of the existing mature trees and the natural urban grain were key drivers along with a requirement for improved natural surveillance and maintaining key views through the site.”

The new scheme makes a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness by creating a group of high-quality new buildings, set in attractive semi-public and communal spaces. Together these accommodate a mix of residential and community spaces for use all year round and reinforces a sense of place.

The new housing offers a mix of residentials types, including one and two bedroom apartments as well as family house size duplexes with gardens, responding to the Local Authority housing needs.  DLA purposely designed them within three separate buildings surrounded by wide pathways and landscaped gardens to create a natural oasis of calm and all apartments, which are light-filled, have unique layouts and benefit from outside space.

Bernadette Cunningham, Director at Thornsett Group, said, “This fantastic project has delivered new community space for the Church, alongside high-quality housing whilst enabling a refurbishment of St John at Hackney Church. DLA has demonstrated a thorough and sensitive understanding of the brief and developed an exciting and contemporary design that greatly enhances the area.”

The overall ecological value of the site has increased as a result of natural systems implemented throughout the development. Passive design principles enable comfortable indoor conditions relying only on natural ventilation and a highly efficient thermal envelope. The massing was also developed to maximise daylight into the new homes and extensive green roofs, bird and bat boxes and a pond are provided to contribute to the biodiversity of the site.

Approximately 6% of the building’s energy comes from PV array installations and a gas fired combined heat and power (CHP) unit is utilised. This has the potential to link into the district heating system if this should ever be extended from Dalston Square in the future.

Responsible sourcing of local materials with low embodied carbon and  recycled measures also contribute to the sustainability of the buildings. Sustainable waste behaviour is promoted throughout with significant provision for recyclable waste storage.

Hackney Gardens was shortlisted for the National Housing Design Award in 2015 and the Regional Civic Trust Awards in 2020. It is also shortlisted for the National Civic Trust Awards in 2021.

DLA Architecture is an award-winning practice which employs over 80 architects, landscape architects, technologists and graphic designers.  Established over 40 years ago the practice has offices in Leeds, Manchester and London.  Its expertise covers a broad range of sector including learning, sport, industry, care, workplace, housing, retail, conservation and re-use.