Redevelopment of the site at 245 Hammersmith Road (formerly Bechtel House) provided a unique opportunity in Hammersmith’s Business Improvement District (BID) to create a new green, publicly accessible space, and public realm improvements in an environmentally hostile location. The landscape setting is contained by mixed use buildings, a hotel, offices and café. A solution was required to multipurpose the space into high quality public amenity built on podium with overlapping activities. Exterior Architecture were appointed for all RIBA workstages.
Design drivers illustrating the high value of the project and why 245 should be awarded:
Activation: Create multifunctional and accessible spaces, to accommodate a wide range of uses at different points in time. Mapping ‘user profiles’ maximised activation at user hot spots. During the pandemic the outside office pods have been invaluable in enabling colleagues to collaborate in a safe and calm environment. The lawn areas have adapted to a plethora of socially distance events; aerobics, weddings, and socialising, strengthening the sense of community. Environment: Transform an existing concrete podium structure into a living green heart within Hammersmith that ensures soft landscape is placed at the forefront of design. Bream Excellence was achieved. The amenity spaces are set into a heavily planted environment; plants were chosen as food sources for local bees and fauna. The local Biodiversity Action Plan was a key reference document in the development of the scheme.
Identity: A unique and identifiable place for all to enjoy. The proposal for 245 HR has a defined street presence due to the enhanced greening of the streetscape, through its entrance points and beyond. The scheme includes several unique and bespoke design elements which are icons of the development, used in branding and advertising, including impressive Corten fern planters, which flank the stairs and funicular lift, set below a grand archway connecting the ground floor plaza and its monumental green wall to an elevated podium garden. Community: Encourage animation of public space through events and cultural programmes serving the residents. The landscape design is inclusive to residents, people who work in the offices and visitors to the restaurant and hotel; this is reflected in the extensive use of the space today through community events, yoga clubs, aerobic/ fitness training, office award ceremonies and pop-up fashion shows.
Problems and Solutions
Inventive strategizing was used to overcome constraints in the design and construction process and is key to why 245HR should be awarded. The elevated garden is built upon an existing podium structure, of which little documentation existed to verify depth, build up allowances and weight restrictions. ExA collaborated closely with the consultant team, suppliers and manufactures to develop innovative construction techniques that minimised loading and sat entirely above the structure, whilst retaining the verdant, immersive character of the proposed space. This also allowed larger trees to be incorporated within the design. ExA worked with the main contractor and sub-contractors during programming of works to ensure a tower crane was available for lifting trees onto podium. To achieve compliant Part M level changes and door thresholds were developed, in collaboration with the supplier, a bespoke detail of sloping ceramic tiles mounted via a rail system to support surface water runoff and align with stepped levels. At the grand stair connection between the podium garden and ground floor plaza, a striking design feature negotiating the significant level change, custom-made steeply sloped Corten planters flanked the staircases within the building under-croft, creating a verdant green link into the space.
Abundant planting across the site provided urban cooling, mitigating the discomforts of the warm urban climate. Enabling people to sit within the planting improved the air quality surrounding seating areas. Permeable surfaces frame each planter in streetscape and form a SuDS system within a challenging existing environment where large trees are to be retained. As part of early engagement and consultation, ExA worked extensively with the local authority to agree materials for adopted elements. This was so successful that the materials and innovative designs solutions were endorsed by the LA by inclusion within their ‘Street Design Guide’ highlighted in the section illustrating how to create a unique sense of place responding to the local character and context, just like the Corten steel planters which are a robust solution to planter walls and reflect the surrounding architectural character of the site.
Architecture offices involved in the design: Sheppard Robson
Project location: 245 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 8PW
Design year: 2014
Year Built: 2020