Case Study

Joined up thinking

Portsmouth Northern Quarter

Portsmouth / 2008


Our role in Portsmouth was working as part of a large team led by Chapman Taylor. We were responsible for the design of three blocks of this huge retail-led development, and brought to the team our valuable experience of working with English Heritage on complex sites. All three blocks surround a new space abutting St Agatha’s, a Grade II* listed church. Our key idea was the reintegration of the church into the proposed urban fabric, making it an integral part of the urban design and a positive element in the regeneration of the city centre.

The 13,500m2 department store anchors the western end of the development. It was our first shell-and-core building and a major new building type for us, drawing on our experience of retail design at Bolton Market Hall. Working very closely with the client’s team and Marks and Spencer we found a way of siting the department store adjacent to the listed church in a way that everyone was happy with, and secured the necessary permissions and the agreement for lease.




The project tackled the legacy of the Tricorn Centre, an architecturally ambitious retail and residential development from the 1960s. It had destroyed the street pattern of this part of Portsmouth and had failed commercially, with ensuing social problems. It was eventually demolished.

The proposed £350 million redevelopment aimed to transform the former Tricorn site and regenerate Portsmouth city centre, with shops, cafes, restaurants, 200 apartments, a hotel and two department stores. When we became involved it had received outline planning consent.

The team from the city planning department was understandably determined to ensure that the proposals avoided the mistakes of the past, and had involved CABE in reviewing them before our involvement. As such a major development, requiring compulsory purchase, the project was also politically sensitive.




How we worked

Our work for the redevelopment of Portsmouth Northern Quarter combined urban planning with commercial and retail design, and required overcoming several constraints. We were appointed by Chapman Taylor on behalf of Centros in March 2006.

The outline planning consent didn’t determine the form or materials of the buildings. The client realised that getting detailed planning permission and listed building consent would be difficult, which is why they approached us. They knew that we had the relevant experience to liaise with both English Heritage and the church.



We established a very productive working relationship with Centros, Chapman Taylor, and the other consultants, taking the lead on the design of the three blocks but working as an integral part of the whole team, which included Bovis Lend Lease advising on construction issues. We established the design of our blocks around a new square within the retail, residential and urban design framework of the project.

Working closely with Chapman Taylor and Centros, we took part in detailed engagement with the city council and local stakeholders, including public consultation events, and led the negotiations with English Heritage and the church. We achieved listed building consent and detailed/reserved matters planning permission, and secured the Agreement for Lease with Marks and Spencer.



Making it happen

In designing the individual blocks we worked closely with the landscape architects to define the new square, and to create safe and pleasant pedestrian routes to enliven the experience of both shoppers and residents, and link the new spaces to the rest of the city. The circular geometry of Church Square focused on the brick apses of the church, a geometry which we reflected in the link buildings and the anchor store arcade.

We designed the Marks and Spencer store to be a landmark building, somewhere that was instantly recognisable but which didn’t overpower the church. We wanted to clad it in something reflective to accentuate the sinuous elevations and set-backs, and came up with the idea of large format terracotta tiles, each with a small curve which wrap around the forms.

In contrast to the anchor store we thought of the other two blocks, one of which included apartments, as background buildings with simple forms and handsome brickwork facades framing the public spaces.

The buildings were designed and detailed to be both commercially successful and provide an appropriate new setting for the listed church. Working with the engineers and Bovis Lend Lease we established an integrated construction methodology and detailing for each element of the proposals, including the facades and alterations to the listed church. This demonstrated to Centros that the proposals were affordable, and gave the planners and English Heritage the confidence to support our proposals.

We worked closely with the Marks and Spencer technical team to make sure the store met their unit specification, challenging the default solutions to their technical brief whilst remaining compliant and ensuring that it would achieve BREEAM excellent.















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