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Having discussed the ecological aspects of the Faircharm Estate design in a previous post (12th December) I though it was time to review other facets of the design.

Creekside Context

The Faircharm Estate is located on Deptford Creek at the crossing of the footbridge, railway and Docklands Light Railway that slides between Deptford Town Centre and Greenwich. Sitting between busy, diverse Deptford and historic Greenwich, the Creek is a rift through infrastructure, industry and unique ecology, and it is here that energetic creative practice finds a place. The Faircharm development draws on all these influences to provide an engaging landscape for existing communities and new residents.

The Faircharm Peninsula

At the confluence of the Ravensbourne basin with the River Thames, Deptford Creek forms the tidal reach of the river, cutting through the ridges of strong clay at the faultline of low gravel and sands. On either side lie the two villages of Deptford and Greenwich which are built on higher ground.

Key pieces of Victorian and 20th century infrastructure surround the site including Bazalgette’s pumping station and fuel storage sheds; the steel lifting bridge; Mumford Mill and the listed brick viaduct which formed London’s original rail link to Kentish farms. The dominant brick buildings are key characters within the mix of concrete DLR viaducts, glass residential developments and the leftover landscape of undeveloped bomb sites.

The site is formed of four deep-plan buildings, served by a narrow, central, access passage leading to the creek and a space, once docks, now the site’s car park. The Faircharm estate is made from tucked away yards and hidden slots between the remains of the industrial buildings; the stoops and stairs with craning views upstream on the hard flank of the Creek; these characterful spaces are embraced in the design of the landscape.

Responding to the Creek

The landscape and public realm proposals have been shaped by several key technical, legal and eclogical constraints which affect the continued use and protection of the creek wall by its many stakeholders.
The positive outcome of working with these constraints has been to consider the wall as a key landscape element which is a balcony to the creek, rather than a barrier to it. Our proposal is to create modest and controlled access up on to the thickest sections of the wall. The pockets of colonised planting which have self-seeded on thin layers of accumulated soil will be left in situ.

The Proposal

The intention of the proposals was to find an approach, language and method in which to found a new set of mixed-use public spaces that complements and supports the existing ecological, social and spatial networks creating a unique and robust set of public spaces which encourages engagement with wild landscape and creative public life.
To structure this work, the project is broken down into three interconnected elements – each drawing on the industrial heritage of the existing context. These are:

A Shared Street: Access for residential and business vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians

The proposal extends the permeability of the Crossfields Estate, which lies opposite the entrance on Creekside road, into Faircharm via a central Street. This is a shared hard surface which provides service access for vehicles and a pedestrian route to the creek and the proposed public activities at its edge. The surface is laid with Ultifinish, an ashaplt with the exposed aggregates which is rich in colour and texture.

Off the main route areas intended only for pedestrians are paved with clay blocks, this softer smaller scale unit is also used in the entrances to the buildings emphasizing the routes.

Within the street, building-mounted lights and signage keep the shared surface clear and give the tall space a more intimate scale in the evening.

Courtyards and Gardens: A set of spaces hollowed out by the architect’s interventions into the retained brick structures.

Cutting away the core of the existing building blocks allows daylight into their deep plans and reveals a pair of sheltered courtyards surrounded by the activity and life of the studios and workspaces that surround them at ground level. The gallery and the café will be encouraged to spill out into the outdoor spaces.

The courtyards are paved with grey granite paving setts in a running bond across the space, binding the materials of the buildings together with the planting. The narrow entrance to the southerly courtyard has clay pavers for a softer feel.

Creek Edge: A thickened ecological landscape alongside the water

This area has two types of surfacing. Soft impact areas are laid with pale red Cedec which is a permable aggregate with a neutral pH which will be seeded with native plants. The beauty of this material is that it can be shaped and seeps through this area of the side like the movement of water and yet is still practical and strong enough to take maintenance vehicles. Outside the vehicle paths a growing medium made of crushed aggregates will be seeded.

The area to the south has a harder feel as there is occasional access for maintenance vehicles. It is paved with a combination of recycled concrete sleepers and tumbled setts, laid flexibly, with joints again seeded with native plants. The relaxed way in which these materials are used allows them to interact in a fluid way.