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Through these architects' eyes

Mon 21 March 2016, 9:42 am

Exceptional buildings have a huge impact on the perception of a place. In Hounslow, Pamela Buxton finds architects of star status scheming dreams

Capital Interchange Way is Will Allsop's first project in the borough

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that some of the UK’s leading architects are currently working in Hounslow, from Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, 2015 winner of top architecture award the Stirling Prize, through to world-renowned Will Alsop's aLL Design.

Acclaimed up-and-coming practices are also making their mark, including Duggan Morris, Mikhail Riches and Mæ Architects, which have all been involved in the Brentford Lock West regeneration, one of the borough’s major projects.

This follows Hounslow Council’s intention to encourage iconic architecture, according to Brendon Walsh, executive director of regeneration, economic development and environment. When he joined in 2012, he commissioned a series of masterplan studies of district centres along the borough’s Golden Mile, to identify potential areas and strategies for regeneration.

At the same time, strenuous efforts were made to improve the performance of the planning department. “We wanted to get the message to developers that if they invest in our borough and in good design, they’ll get a good service in return,” says Walsh, adding that, equally, the council won’t waste time on schemes of insufficient merit.

“We’d prefer to leave things as they are unless developers come through with the highest quality design,” he says. “We’ve had a very good response. Developers have risen to the challenge.”

Several of the schemes seek to maximise Hounslow’s previously underused waterside assets. As well as the ongoing Brentford Lock West residential scheme, led by ISIS Waterside Regeneration, Ballymore’s AHMM-designed Brentford Waterside scheme seeks to revitalise Brentford High Street, through a mix of high-density and low-rise redevelopment as well as improving links through the site to the waterways.

Walsh adds: “The council has also agreed a deal with property developer London Green to relocate the Waterman Arts Centre within a new purpose- built building on the site of the former police station, The council has made it clear that we want iconic architecture releasing the existing site for redevelopment and providing the arts facility with a more central location.

“On Hounslow High Street, the council, working with Barratt London, has commissioned TP Bennett to masterplan a mixed-use high street quarter.”

The Golden Mile is another focus, says Walsh. “We’re looking to replace some poor-quality buildings that are mixed in with the high-quality art deco buildings. The council has made it clear that we’d support high densification and that we want iconic architecture.”

A number of proposals are already being formulated in this area. At Chiswick roundabout, Galliard Homes has commissioned Studio Egret West to design a 32-storey landmark mixed-use tower. Nearby, Will Alsop’s aLL Design is masterplanning a new mixed- use development at Capital Interchange Way including a bus depot, housing and a raised public park.

Walsh wants to encourage buildings with longevity beyond the typical development cycles. “We’re looking to develop a cluster of extremely high-quality buildings by signature architects. The challenge is encouraging buildings that last, and signal Hounslow as a place of quality.” The council will have the opportunity to practise what it preaches with a new civic centre in the town centre due to open in 2018.

A longer version of this article features in the new issue of Great West magazine 

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