A Victorian acculumator tower gives access to contemporary apartments with generous balconies

Mixed-use / Housing / Retail

Gloucester Avenue

42 Gloucester Avenue

London NW1

Foreword
This mixed-use development on historic railway land in Primrose Hill was strongly supported by the Conservation Area Committee and won planning permission in less than two minutes.

HERITAGE

PLANNING

INNOVATION

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Shortlisted in the Brick Awards, this 3,000sqm mixed-use redevelopment of railway land features six new residential apartments fronting onto Gloucester Avenue, above a retail unit and restaurant, with office space situated to the rear next to the railway.

 

Arranged around a courtyard, an historic accumulator tower provides vertical circulation for the apartments, which are accessed from flying walkways. Generous projecting balconies provide further amenity space.

 

Improved public access to the canal was a key part of the scheme, with a ramp along the front of the building allowing wheelchair and cycle access to the towpath. The Primrose Hill Conservation Area Advisory Committee enthusiastically supported the scheme, which was also welcomed by Camden Council's planning department.

 

The development was featured in the RIBA Housing sector publication, and was also used as the feature building in an edition of Architects Journal.

 

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Heritage and conservation

The restored Victorian horse tunnel makes an atmospheric restaurant space
 

This site once housed Victorian stabling for horses used at the Camden Goods Depot, which was built in 1837 and demolished in 1980. A horse tunnel running beneath the site provided access between the depot and the stabling, used by Burton-on-Trent brewery Samuel Allsopp & Sons. We preserved the tunnel's London stock brick walls, barrel ceiling and cobbled floor for the benefit of future generations. The scheme repurposes the horse tunnel as a seating area for the new restaurant, with uplighters enhancing the drama of the space.

 

Meanwhile, the 12m-tall accumulator tower was part of the London & North Western Railway’s hydraulic system, providing high-pressure water to drive machinery at the depot. Our design conserves the building, replacing its pyramidal roof (lost in 1995), and the missing louvres of the 12 openings in the tower’s uppermost section. The structure now functions as a staircase and lift-shaft for the adjacent apartment-block, to which it is connected by flying walkways.

 

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Planning context

Map showing the Gloucester Avenue development site

‘The site’s existing factory, which ran alongside the railway line, was a derelict structure that attracted antisocial behaviour. Camden's planners originally rejected anything but a B1 replacement building. However, our mixed-use proposal helped the client win the site in a competitive tender. We demonstrated the eclectic character of Primrose Hill and Gloucester Avenue through an extensive review of the area. We submitted this to the Primrose Hill Conservation Area Committee, who expressed their full support of the scheme to Camden Council. Following this, the development was unanimously approved at presentation to the Planning Committee in less than two minutes.

 

Planners were convinced by the inclusion of a new retail element, and impressed by new public access to the canal. This key part of the scheme installed a ramp along the front of the commercial building – which is set back from the canal – giving wheelchair users and cyclists access to the towpath.

 

The development’s final mix of uses is: 100sqm of new retail space; 171sqm of new restaurant and bar space; an increase in industrial space from 776sqm to 1,703sqm, and 950sqm of new residential space.

 

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Innovation in design

The constrained brownfield site informed a courtyard-based design, in which a commercial block acts as an acoustic buffer to protect the residential aspect from the adjacent railway. A communal amenity space sits between the buildings.

 

The dramatic, contemporary front elevation was composed by layering the façade, so that a brick carapace floats in front of the glass wall that encloses the residential accommodation. The glass and brick layers join at points to create balconies and bay windows. A terracotta brick reacts warmly to late-afternoon sun flooding the western elevation, creating a glowing effect that complements the reflections on the glazed areas. The whole was constructed and designed using high-quality materials and detailing.

 

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