Slab, point-accessTower
Burrell's Wharf
Jestico & Whiles | London, Great Britain | 1995
Image of Burrell's ...
River (south) facade

ProjectBurrell's Wharf
ArchitectJestico & Whiles
CityLondon
CountryGreat Britain
AddressWestferry road, #262
Building TypeSlab, point-access
Tower
Number of Dwellings310
Date Built1995
Dwelling Typesstudio to 3 BR flats, maisonettes
No. Floors4-9
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
Materials
brick, steel, glass, precast concrete panels
Construction Typemasonry, RC frame
Ancillary Servicesleisure center, shops, offices, parking

This is one of the first Docklands housing projects to be built on the Isle of Dogs, on a remarkable site along the Thames opposite Greenwich. This was the historic shipyard site where the Great Eastern was launched in 1850 (it was launched sideways, some of the rails are still visible). Later, when the ship building industry moved, the buildings were used for the next 100 years by Burrell family for the manufacture of paint. Listed as a Class II historic site, the buildings were purchased in 1985 for redevelopment as a mixed-use housing project. The original group of 7 buildings was converted to residential and commercial use and several new buildings were built providing 310 dwellings in a two-phased building period that completed in 1995. The original buildings, which had been added to over the years form system of regular courtyards in a perpendicular axial alignment with the river and the access street West Ferry Road. In addition to new apartments, the project includes a recreation center, business offices, some shops and underground parking. The site concept involved a two-part strategy first to complete the courtyard spaces and convert the industrial spaces to apartments and second, to build two new 9-story towers that form a huge gateway along the river.

A central square which forms a small garden and the entrance to parking is defined by long narrow warehouses on the sides and is dominated at the end by the tower and basilican volume of the Plate House, designed by Cubitt in the 1850’s. The 2-long buildings along the west side of the square have been converted to flats using exposed beams, brick walls, and steel and glass details that compliment the original industrial architecture. On the opposite side of the square, a similar but new 4-story slab that continues the warehouse vernacular forms and materials, has been built around the original chimney. Plate House is used as the recreation/community center and the building also has 9 small flats and a penthouse apartment in the tower. A new ell-shaped building with a turret defines a small residential square in the north west corner of the complex and contains new flats and, along with the other smaller additions along West Ferry road, helps define an entrance to the site from the road and an areas of shops and offices. Two new residential towers along the water step in height from 6-9 floors. Each contains 70 apartments and fronts the water with balconies, terraces and extensive glazing. The towers were built with a reinforced concrete frame, pre-cast walls, and continuous glazing. The metal shed roofs, steel and glass materials, and wall surfaces make some references to the surrounding buildings, however, they seem stylistically detached from the pure industrial revival of the courtyard buildings. The axis of the towers marks passage from the river to the central square that terminates in the Tower on the Plate House. The square is disappointing as a public space because of its scale, a distracting entry to the garage and a resulting raised platform, and lack of any real pedestrian activity. Burrell’s Wharf was one of the early docklands towers and helped establish a pattern of large luxury apartments along both sides of the Thames that continues to develop. The warehouses that lined much of the river before shipping moved out to be replaced by the ambitious Docklands project, were much more continuous, unified, and edge-defining that the type of detached, free-standing towers that have replaced them. Elements of an industrial Grand Canal still exist in areas of Bermondsey and Wapping where original warehouses were converted to commercial and residential use. Along the eastern reaches of the Thames, however, reaching to Burrell’s Wharf and beyond, speculative development and the construction of residential towers of all sizes and stylish as rendered the Thames the open market carnivale version of the Grand Canal.

Colquhoun, Ian, RIBA Book of 20th Century British Housing, Butterworth-Heinmann, Oxford, 1999, pp. 133-35.

Cox, Alan, Docklands In The Making: The Redeveloment of The Isle of Dogs, 1981-1995, The Athlone Press, London, 1995, pp. 32-33.

Design, # 469, Jan., 1988, pp. 72.

Edwards Brian,London Docklands; Urban Design In An Age of Deregulation, Butterworth-Heinmann, Oxford, 1992, pp. 153.

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