Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
First Base with
Bovis Lend Lease
London Borough of Hackney
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New developers promising to slash construction costs by 20% to create affordable housing sound like an unwelcome short-term fix. But first impressions of this debut scheme from First Base are that its 147 flats are 20% better specified than the norm, in spite of trumpeted cost focus.
Clues to quality begin with the double-height gateways from roads lining the U-shaped block accessing the courtyard space. One view is through a tunnel of robin-red vitreous enamel cladding, the other south to Haggerston Park in mustard-yellow. This hard wearing finish continues in the individual post boxes, each in one of 9 clashing enamels and set like installation art in the access, all policed by a concierge's office with bench-height window.
If you enter past the concierge, the surprises continue with a stairwell where flights are asymmetrically stacked to create a geometrical puzzle of concrete soffits. Walking up the stairs takes you past a wall painting on the stair lining of timber planks vertically stacking, a reference to the site's previous life as timber warehouse.
Access to flats is double banked and down three long straight runs served by just two cores. But the common 1200 mm is bumped up to 1750 mm, the illusion of corridor infinity softened by "columns" outside each apartment (containing the risers) and there are glazed panels at corridor ends to bring in natural light. Concealed in the roof of each corridor is a communal heat system, and individual flats can absorb this high ambient temperature by opening their door to it. The corridors have deep purple carpet, soft diffuse overhead lighting and a somniferous feel - which may stop children haring round them. First Base is working in partnership with London & Quadrant's Tower Homes and 41 units are social rent, including 3 and 4-bed units overlooking Haggerston Park, which point to high child density. L&Q's concierge works to 3pm.