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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Vauxhall Sky Gardens, London, United Kingdom

Vauxhall Sky Gardens gains planning approval

London based Amin Taha Architects with careyjones architects and their client, Fraser Properties, have achieved planning approval for Vauxhall Sky Garden. The practice was commissioned to investigate a number of sites and develop concepts for achieving high development ratios while maintaining good quality amenity spaces for residents. The site at Vauxhall Cross lies within the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) newly designated “Nine Elms Opportunity Area” stretching from Lambeth Bridge to Battersea Power Station, a location the American Embassy will be moving to from their current location at Grosvenor Place in Mayfair and which is expected to be a larger development area than Canary Wharf.

The tower will be 130 m tall with 178 residential units and approximately 10,000 sq m of office, retail and associated spaces. It is unique for its 2,500 sq m of communal ‘sky-gardens’, each being triple height and on a full floor plate. Shared by their surrounding apartments they expand opportunities and choice for social interaction allowing for the creation of micro-communities within such large and otherwise inherently anonymous blocks. Landscaping allows for smaller intimate ‘park-bench’ areas, larger break-out spaces for ‘social passing trade’ and for 9 months of the year enough area to grow a weekly salad box for every household.

The residential units are predominantly private with 40% given over to controlled affordable rented and shared equity residents.

With WSP Engineers the project, at 2,600 habitable rooms per ha and a development ration 1:14, has the highest development density for London and UK and is intended as an urban model of integrated environmental and social sustainability. Key to attaining any residential approval in London is the provision of amenity space for residents normally provided in the form of an external balcony for each residential unit and some shared external garden space provided in the form of roof terraces. The availability of the larger shared space quickly determines the number of habitable rooms available for development on a given site and therefore the development ratio. Amin Taha Architects worked closely with the Local Authority’s Planning Department, the GLA, English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture in the Built Environment (CABE) to provide a series of significant garden spaces which would be a product of habitable rooms and in this way allow an increase in density and development ratio.

Similar to Georgian and Victorian Garden Squares in other parts of London, the surrounding residents would exclusively use these as their shared amenity engendering shared ownership, responsibility and community. Theoretically then as long as one sky garden is provided for so many residents a tower can go up indefinitely. Increasing density and mixing uses increases efficiency in energy use and significantly scaled garden spaces maintain social sustainability.

Fraser Properties intends to develop the £72M tower with a completion date projected for 2012.
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