Gasholders: Bases for Living
RIBA Competition

Project Details

Gasholders: Bases for Living
RIBA Competition

Our proposal responds to the form and general location of the gasholders, which are typically to be found in sustainable urban centres. Whilst their scale varies, they are all of a size which affords an opportunity to create a new development with enough gravitas to succeed as places within themselves. It is through the design of a scheme with its own sense of place, working with the unique form and profile of the gasholders, that we have sought to maintain their memory within the social fabric of the towns and cities that they inhabit, whilst meeting a recognised need, releasing value, and embracing contemporary solutions to construction.

Urban centres typically provide good transport links, employment opportunities, and readily accept strong built forms. However, there is a recognised shortage of housing, and that which is produced is often without a sense of community, and lacks good social diversity due to repetition of types leading to mono-demography. Urban areas can also be unremitting in terms of open space, exacerbate issues of rainwater run-off due to hard landscaping, and with a slow turnover of stock include large quantities of buildings which are not likely to be fit to respond to the challenges of our changing climate.

We consider that the use of the gasholders as new residential communities provides an opportunity to address many of these issues, as well as embracing the benefits of providing new housing in well-connected brownfield sites.

The circular form of the gasholders is strong, and suggests a self-contained whole. This has informed our proposals to create a community around each gasholder. The form arranges dwellings around the perimeter of the pit, in tiered banks, predominantly looking into the centre, which is used as a space that is ‘owned’ in a communal sense by the residents. In instances where there is a shallow dumpling, or no dumpling at all, this may be a pond with the possibility of floating communal spaces. Where a significant dumpling exists, it would remain to form a communal ‘island’.

The banking and tiering if the residential blocks around the perimeter allows reasonable separation between them where they face each other across the central space, as well as facilitating access, and affording terraces to provide some amenity space. The circular form is broken on the southern side, to permit sunlight to enter, particularly during the winter months. As part of this break a banked area of steps and seating provides access to the lower tiers and to the communal space in the centre.

To unify the whole, a single circular roof form has been designed, which will echo the form of the former gasholders to maintain the social memory of the former use of the sites, as well as providing rainfall capture and direction into the central pool and the potential for photovoltaics. This roof is raised away from the upper housing blocks to provide roof terraces as further amenity space.

The block sizes have been chosen to permit a range of ‘modules’ to be interchanged as required within the framework of the concept to suit the community need. These modules allow a range of dwelling sizes and types to be integrated into one homogenous development. These may for example include a number of small single studio apartments for students or younger occupiers, flats for downsizers or couples, through to larger two storey dwellings for families. In this way we allow for the needs of a mix of ages and types of occupant within a single site, to create a diverse community.