Case Study

Making a new place

Rivergate Centre

London / 2011

Ideas

On this desolate, exposed site on the Thames estuary our challenge at The Rivergate Centre was to create a vibrant and sustainable place at the heart of a new community.

Our motivation was the creation of places which maximised interaction and chance meetings between people who might otherwise never meet, both in the new public square and in the reception and arcades of the buildings.

To achieve this we came up with the concept of a shared reception for the school, Primary Care Trust, community development trust offices and the church. We also incorporated a social enterprise cafe, which was not in the original brief, to be used by residents, church goers and school parents. The inclusion of these shared spaces, all entered from the square, along with the clear definition of the square by the buildings along its perimeter, brings a sense of civic presence to this dynamic new centre.


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Context

Our brief was to design 93 residential units as well as The Rivergate Centre; the ‘civic’ facilities for the first phase of Barking Riverside, including a large three form entry primary school and a church, as well as a public square to link these elements.

 This involved working within the framework of the consented master plan and Section 106 agreement for the overall Barking Riverside development, which will deliver around 10,000 homes on the brownfield site over the next 25 years.

The development, between Barking town centre and the River Thames, is a key element of the wider regeneration of East London. The Rivergate Centre was completed in 2011. The second phase of the project consists of 93 residential units arranged around a courtyard garden, with local retail facilities, a home delivery store, police neighbourhood office, and basement level parking.


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How we worked

From the outset our intention was to engage openly with all the clients to test the brief, resolve potential conflicts and build ownership of the design by all parties. Existing community groups, stakeholders and end users were all widely consulted. We had a very good relationship with the education client at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD), which allowed us to utilise all our experience in primary school design.

Our client consisted of the LBBD, for the school, and Barking Riverside Ltd (BRL), itself a joint venture between Bellway Homes and the Homes and Communities Agency. LBBD Children’s Services, together with a head teacher representative from one of the borough’s existing schools, acted as the briefing client to the design team. The church client was formed from a consortium of local churches.

At each stage the efficiency of the design was maximised. We led the team of consultants. Sustainability and landscape design were critical factors; our close working relationship with Max Fordham (environmental and M&E design engineers) and Macgregor Smith (landscape design) was fundamental to meeting the brief within the programme and budget.

Following receipt of detailed planning consent for the whole scheme, we were novated to the contractor, Neilcott, to deliver phase 1. We then worked very closely with their subcontractors to develop the construction details and realise the design, maintaining the quality of the concept through to completion.


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Making it happen

It required ingenuity and careful planning to design a successful scheme. The site is an awkward shape and contains significant level changes. Central to it all was the public square.

The school includes many different teaching and play environments. Corridors have been kept to a minimum; generous sized classrooms are designed in clusters for year groups in each key stage and top lit break-out spaces provided.


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All school facilities are designed to be easily available to the community, and can be accessed from the central reception. The church, the hall, IT suite and sports facilities can all be used when the rest of the school is locked.


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The building has a concrete frame structure, combined with high performance facades and partitions which make it robust and flexible, with colour used to dramatic effect. Intelligent, passive design solutions maximise natural daylight, views to the surroundings and ventilation providing not only a sustainable environment, but a more pleasant one.


The strong massing of the housing in the second phase, for which we achieved planning permission but which was subsequently altered by Bellway when built, defines the new square and links to the existing Thames View Estate. The retail units are set within a colonnade which defines the west of the square.


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Testimonials

‘The shared outdoor areas and public square will be an inviting space for residents to visit and the Rivergate Centre sits at the heart of the new development, creating a new destination for the Borough. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham are very pleased with the design work of vHH, they have identified the needs of existing residents and created a new and attractive building for a number of community uses that will be the cornerstone of a new community at Barking Riverside.’

Jeremy Grint. Divisional Director of Regeneration and Economic Development at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.


‘Seeing the building at various stages of completion and designing school provision around the facilities has been the most exciting and fulfilling post I have had in my teaching career.’

Chris Harrison, Head teacher


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Data

Client

London Borough Of Barking And Dagenham

Value

£24m

Area

15,500m2

Date

2011

Location

London

Our Role

Architect And Lead Consultant

Awards

RICS Awards, Rivergate Centre, Regeneration