New Wakefield Street (2)
A 33-storey building for mature students and key worker accommodation. Designed by Hodder + Partners.
29 June 2010
Planning reference: 091920/FO/2009/C1 - Manchester
We also reviewed this scheme on 22 February 2010.
We have no objection to the principle of a tall building on this site next to Oxford Road Station. We found the analysis of a series of tall buildings marking the edges of the city core at railway stations broadly convincing. We welcome the proposed change of use to mature student accommodation and homes for key workers, which seems more appropriate in this location at the edge of the University quarter. The revised proportions and detailing of the elevations, generated by the wider rooms proposed, have made the architectural expression simpler, calmer and more robust. However, we are concerned that the change in the nature of the accommodation is not reflected in the size of the studios and the provision of amenity space.
We welcome the ground floor common room and reception for residents, and the set back created along New Wakefield Street that provides some breathing space at street level. A development of this density on a small site demands a reappraisal of the public realm in the immediate and wider area. We would therefore like to see further analysis of how a scheme of this density fits into the network of routes, spaces and facilities across the University quarter and wider city. It will be important to safeguard an appropriate budget to ensure that the communal and public spaces are delivered to a high quality.
Given the change of use to post graduate and mature student accommodation and homes for key workers, we are concerned by the small size of the studio units proposed and the lack of amenity space provided for residents. We think provision should be made for balconies and external communal spaces that take advantage of the stepped massing, now that the management of high level external amenity space for undergraduate students is no longer a constraint. Natural light will be essential to make the long narrow central corridors and lift lobby pleasant circulation spaces, so the windows to these areas must be safeguarded in the planning process.
Built form and architectural quality
We think that the shifting and stepping form is a reasonable approach to the massing. We support the clear relationship between the internal arrangement and external expression and welcome the further simplification of the façade in response to the revised plan. The detailed visualisation of the façade provided reassures us that the elevations have been carefully considered. A cleaning strategy will be essential to avoid a build up of dirt on the light shelves.
It will be important to ensure that sufficient budget has been allocated to achieve the quality of materials and details required for a tall building of this prominence. For example, the terracotta cladding proposed will only be acceptable if the finish is of high quality and the panels are sized to work visually with the scale of the elevations. The planning authority need to be confident that the colour, tone and texture of the proposed grey cladding will work well in all lighting conditions. Samples of the materials should be provided and the quality of materials, details and finishes and the treatment of the public realm should be secured through the appropriate use of planning conditions.
Finally, we expect tall buildings to take a robust approach to minimising energy use and reducing carbon emissions, exceeding the latest regulations and planning policies. We would therefore expect a higher BREEAM rating than Very Good to be achieved.