Barking Central, a mixed-use development delivered in two phases over eight years, has transformed a car park into a civic heart for the town of Barking.
A family of seven brightly coloured blocks, designed by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, house retail units, a café, a hotel, a store for 250 bicycles and a learning centre (a library, training facility, gallery, and council ‘one-stop-shop’) alongside 518 flats. Most are one- and two-bedroom homes, designed to attract young professionals.
The buildings range from two to 17 storeys and are linked by highly bespoke public spaces designed by art and architecture practice muf. These include an arboretum, a square for events and performances, an arcade, and a seven metre-high ‘folly’.
Formerly little more than a service yard, the site now offers a fitting setting for the town hall. The scheme reconstructs a missing piece of city, bringing life back to the town centre, and re-establishing connections between the civic centre, High Street, historic park Abbey Green and local housing estates.
Barking has high levels of deprivation and low property values and has been identified as a key investment area in the Thames Gateway. Barking Central plays a major role in the area’s regeneration, bringing in new residents and offering learning facilities, cultural opportunities and wider housing choice to local people. The development – its bright green, yellow and orange facades visible from the A13, a major route into London – acts as a striking marker of change.
A joint venture between the local authority and housebuilder Redrow, Barking Central shows that a public-private partnership can produce a development that is more than an exchange of quantifiable benefits. Unlike many private housing schemes, Barking Central has a strong ‘sense of place’ and a generous relationship with the wider town. It proves the value of considered investment in public space, and carefully reinforcing an area’s existing character.