The restoration of James Riley Point (JRP) combined with the new Docklands Community Centre form the flagship first phase of the redevelopment of the Carpenters Estate, one of the largest and most ambitious estate regeneration initiatives in the capital. In 2020 Proctor and Matthews Architects were appointed by Populo Living to work alongside refurbishment specialist ECD architects.
The project breathes new life into a vacant 23 storey 1960’s residential tower and its poorly structured triangular plot with underused landscape, an alienating undercroft and only blank service spaces set at street level. The current conditions offer little to the community in one of the neighbourhoods most prominent locations.
When complete the new Docklands Community Centre will cater for over 2500 visitors each week providing a five-a-side futsal pitch, three court badminton gym, children’s club, café, start-up offices and flexible sports and dance studios. The refurbished tower will provide 136 new homes (including four wheelchair enhanced apartments) all built to Passive House standards. The original apartments are all reconfigured to modern standards offering views out over the Olympic Park and Stratford. The existing roof terrace will be reopened for community grow gardens to encourage neighbourly interaction while new planting and landscape promote biodiversity and sustainability.
A new public square will create a vibrant meeting space for the adjacent school and wider estate. Around 1,656m2 of new play and communal amenity spaces will replace the existing poor quality and unmaintained lawn and unused podium.
Residents were engaged at each design stage, ensuring the project meets the needs and desires of the community and encouraging a strong sense of ownership and belonging.
One of three 1960’s towers within the Carpenters Estate, JRP is set on eight giant sculptural concrete columns. Named after a local councillor, this imposing structure stands as a reminder of the prevailing dominance of modern design principals during the mid-20th Century. As with so many of these building types the influence of Le Corbusier’s Unité is clear, but JRP as with so many British examples, lacks the modelled architectural language of the originals or the community facilities and active ground plane that were an integral part of the social programme. The innovative refurbishment of JRP, combined with a new state-of-the-art multifunctional leisure, community, and sports centre, provided the opportunity to rethink this historic building’s future.
As with many historic structures, finding a sympathetic design approach to a combination of restoration and new interventions was critical. Modernism’s pre-occupation with the formal expression of a programme’s constituent parts - often seen in the floating rectilinear office or apartment blocks above the more fluid plastic forms of foyers and social spaces informed our design narrative for this complex brief.
Conceived as a fluid, permeable landscape of interconnected pavilions, the community and sports spaces are configured with curvilinear and sawtooth forms that engage the surrounding streetscape and act as a counterpoint to the rigid geometry of the tower.
New balcony structures give a more modelled and domestic quality to the existing built form, while Carpenters historic legacy of 18th Century porcelain inspired the use of coloured glazed ceramics that provide a vibrancy that celebrates JRP’s legacy as a landmark structure within the neighbourhood.