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Allford Hall Monaghan Morris Architects - Adelaide Wharf Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 07:07

AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-01
Adelaide Wharf is a mixed tenure housing scheme comprising 147 new homes and 650 sq m of workspace. Located on the Regent’s Canal in Hackney, a key regeneration area of London.

The developper has created sustainable, adaptable homes set within a safe environment with communal facilities for all residents. The scheme is the first to be delivered as part of English Partnerships’ London-Wide Initiative (LWI) with a mix of privately sold and socially rented apartments.

There is no visible differentiation between tenures and all of the homes are built and managed to the same high specification. Adelaide Wharf combines sophisticated urban intervention, emerging efficient construction technologies and the latest thinking in residential development.

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris rationalised the proposals and a new planning application. Adelaide Wharf combines high quality privately owned apartments with shared equity Key Worker and social housing in a non-hierarchical architecture and no visible differentiation between tenures.
AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-08
AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-02Whilst the private apartments overlook the canal the social housing element enjoys views over the expansive park to the south and beyond to the City skyline.

The effort to ensure a social mix stripped of stigmatisation is a profound and important innovation, one that more than meets the Mayor’s criteria, indeed pushes ambition far beyond the mandatory concessions to affordable housing.


The Adelaide Wharf site is in a residential part of Hackney, with the Regent’s Canal to the north and Haggerston Park to the south. It was previously used as warehousing in a brutal building, on the site of an old timber wharf.

The six storey block wraps around three sides of a landscaped courtyard defining the edges of the city block, and the two street elevations have coloured entrance courts lined in glossy vitreous enamel cladding panels punched through between streetscape and courtyard, linking into the circulation cores in each corner. The plan of the upper residential floors is based on a rotational symmetry about the two cores, from which the corridors radiate out. The three blocks express this rotation externally in the way in which they turn the corners and their gable ends are clad. AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-09

AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-04The two main entrances to the building are sheltered and gated outdoor spaces, double height slots extruded through the building, which are lined in glossy vitreous enamel cladding panels. They emphasise the break in the block at street level and frame views of the garden from the streetside. Graphics and the strong colour give each entrance a clear identity and address.

Enclosed stair lobbies, post-boxes and concierge’s facilities for the housing above are located to the side of these entrance courts. The cores take up the shift in the building grid at each corner, and the break is used to provide a full height slot window from lobby glazing up to a roof light, maximising daylight in the circulation, and providing views into the landscaped courtyard from each lift and stair landing.

The circulation is arranged in double banked corridors, each with daylight at one end to orientate the user. The corridor ending at the canal has a fully glazed slot, and double and triple height voids next to the window, to maximise the amount of daylight falling into the corridor, and to dramatize the view.
AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-10AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-15AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-17The main entrance lobby and stairwell is lined with a 16m tall printed timber pattern by local artist Richard Woods echoing the former use of the site and the external cladding. Richard Woods was selected after a design competition run by First Base at neighbouring artist studio The Tannery.

The ground floor is a smooth engineering brick base, taking up taking up the changes in level as the road climbs towards the canal bridge. Recesses and projections on the ground floor create a series of events on the street, with coloured doors acting as a contrast to the brick.
AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-06
The entrances to the ground floor 4 bed flats each have stairs projecting onto the street, defining their defensible space. The cladding to the upper storeys is lighter and more textured in character, and consists of vertical boards of rough sawn Siberian Larch, fixed board on board to emphasise the vertical grain, set between bands of smooth zinc. Its fenestration has two repeating window patterns, one of large window openings to the living rooms, and one of vertically proportioned windows onto the bedrooms. This pattern repeats around the building reflecting the arrangement of the flats inside, and the whole treatment is unified by the horizontal zinc band running at each floor level.
AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-03
Each flat has a balcony supported from beams at roof level, cantilevering like lifting beams on warehouses. Each balcony is clad with a coloured plane with a single fold in it, and offset from the windows, cantilevering in alternate directions at each floor to produce double height gaps between them and reduce overshadowing to the living rooms below. The colours on the planes of the balconies are then graduated across the façade, which seen are seen to best advantage obliquely down the street.

Internal Layouts
The design of the 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments all follow a similar strategy. Circulation is kept to a minimum, so that the living area is maximised and the deep plan locates all the serviced spaces along the corridor wall, with the living / sleeping spaces making maximum use of the window walls. The repetition of the bathroom types, kitchen types and flat layouts allows for one carefully considered and worked out solution to be applied across all the flats, so that they all benefit from the quality derived by the standardisation of the architectural idea. The layouts all have open plan living/kitchen/diners, to maximise the sense of space.
AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-07Additionally, the one bedroom flats have double doors opening between the living and bedroom, extending the main space so that the occupants can occupy the space more flexibly.

The family flats within the upper storeys are mostly located on the south facing elevations. Their enlarged balconies are extensions of the living room areas, and provide a room sized external amenity, but even the balconies to the smaller flats are large enough for a table and chairs, and to operate as a useable outdoor space.
AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-13AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-14Sustainability
Adelaide Wharf is currently with BREEAM for validation, targeting an Excellent rating (subject to the outcomes of acoustic and daylighting reports). The key drivers have been affordability and efficiency, with a pre packaged central plant on the roof providing heat to all flats, which may be easily replaced should the energy source need changing. Domestic hot water is also generated by the central plant from localised heat exchangers avoiding the energy losses of central hot water storage. Lighting throughout the building has been designed to be low energy use. All flat types have 50 - 60% low energy fittings and occupancy sensors control landlord areas. Water saving devices such as aerated taps, dual flush cisterns and low-flow showers are specified to reduce consumption.

AHMM-Adelaide-Wharf-05Situated next to the Wildlife corridor of the Regent’s Canal, the north block has a brown roof which over time will be colonised by local flora, and 40 bird boxes designed for various different species. Rainwater from the roof is harvested and stored for landscape irrigation, and a strip of land between the building and the canal is planted and left to grow into wildflower grassland. All the timber used in the construction of Adelaide Wharf was FSC certified, including the untreated Larch cladding, internal floors, doors, joinery and timber used for temporary works. The development has 183 secure bike spaces and a children’s’ play area.


The modern construction methods employed reduced trades to as few as possible, minimising wet trades on site and making extensive and pragmatic use of prefabrication to reduce time on site and improve the quality of build. The principal components are a concrete frame with flat slabs and blade columns using prefabricated reinforcement mats, a unitised cladding system avoiding the need for scaffolding, prefabricated bathroom pods, balconies and plant, and dry-lined internal partitions. The build was completed in 18 months, including for 2 months lost due to below ground obstructions in the former brownfield site.

Through the use of modern construction methods, First Base has reduced overall construction costs at Adelaide Wharf by 20% whilst reducing delivery time for the project by 20%. This has also contributed to a 10% increase in property values across the schedule.

Plans and Elevations

Enlarged photographs


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