Chelsea Barracks (2)
Buildings from 5 to 13 storeys for 638 homes, leisure uses and public space on south-west London site. Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.
25 March 2009
Planning reference: 08/02889/FULL
We also reviewed this scheme on 23 June 2008.
We welcome this scheme as a successful response to the challenges of the Chelsea Barracks site. Its vigorous geometry based on two colliding sets of parallel blocks creates a clear and powerful layout. We appreciate the regularity of the block spacing of the buildings on Chelsea Bridge Road and Ebury Bridge Road and we think that the alternating rhythm of buildings and the lowered courtyards presents a convincing formal frontage which is appropriate in the sensitive setting of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. We also think that the well balanced distribution of accommodation over the site is successful. This scheme will provide an uplifting green open space and excellent new facilities for the wider neighbourhood.
Amended planning application
In principle, we support the changes to the design. The reduction in height and length of several of the blocks has improved the quality of the scheme; in particular, the adjustment of mass of the buildings on Ebury Bridge Road, has been beneficial. The introduction of 24 hour public access to the internal open space is also welcomed. We have, however, a few reservations about the treatment of the public space and the design of the northern modules of the Chelsea Bridge Road buildings adjacent to the proposed public space. Here, we think they have lost some of their initial character and confidence.
Introducing a large public space and more animated active frontage onto Ebury Bridge Road is a positive and welcome addition to the scheme. We acknowledge the effort that has informed the elegant landscape design and appreciate the sophisticated pattern of plates and voids the proposed design has introduced.
We think, however, that the proposed landscape design could do more to celebrate the powerful relationships between the buildings. At present, it feels superimposed and almost apologetic rather than appreciative of the contrasting geometries and potentials of the layout. We would also welcome development of the landscape design in order to create spaces of specific character responding to these different relationships that occur between the buildings.
For the underground car park, the proposed landscape design offers the opportunity to successfully integrate the vents and introduce natural light and ventilation to the basement. In terms of sustainability, however, we question whether the amount of parking is excessive, particularly given this central location and proximity to excellent public transport links.
Design of the buildings
We welcome the approach to the elevations and sections which respond in a subtle way to the varied nature of the site context. We are not convinced, however, by the proposed three lower pavilions, replacing the northern modules of the blocks B, C and D. While we can follow the rationale behind their design in terms of height, form and choice of material, we think that the difference of architectural treatment compared to the main blocks is too great and weakens the power of the axial arrangement of the scheme. We believe that a subtler way to step down could be achieved which differs less from the initial design.
The variations in the colour of the blocks, both on Chelsea Bridge Road and Ebury Bridge Road, appear successful and elegant, and we think that they blend in well with the different historic and recent buildings in the neighbourhood.
We applaud the strength of the overarching principles of scheme and the high quality design of the individual blocks and we fully support the planning application. However, we would like to suggest that the team continues to develop the landscape design and reconsiders the treatment of the three pavilions.