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A
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The Make Charter
Current
list Article list

The Make Charter

Frank has led a range of major schemes for Make during his 14 years with the practice, including masterplanning, healthcare, residential, transport, hotel and office projects. The Make Charter is both a tool to find answers and a checklist to ensure we consider all aspects of a project. It represents a framework for design and a promise to uphold the quality of our service, enabling us to take a consistent approach to every project while recognising that each requires its own unique solution.

The Charter is structured around questions intended to establish what makes each project special. What’s best for the site? What’s best for the people using it and the overall environment? What’s best for the client and their investment? What’s best in terms of ambition and legacy? By applying these same questions across different projects, we’re able to explore and resolve ideas at every turn, an approach that vastly improves the designs we deliver.

Two recent projects I’ve worked on illustrate the benefits of the Charter. The first is Mitre Yard, a proposal for build-to-rent housing in a regeneration area at the edge of the expansively named Old Oak Common and Royal Oak Opportunity Area Framework – a huge industrial area spanning four boroughs of North West London targeted for regeneration. The second project is 20 Ropemaker Street, a design for a large new office building in the City, just north of Moorgate. These are large-scale projects with very different uses and clients, on different sites. Both have achieved planning consent and will now progress towards construction, thanks to careful consideration given to the following subjects.

Site

The site is the foremost constraint on any project. Everything from topography to adjacent buildings to an area’s sunshine, noise and views can heavily influence architectural design. And the political climate, socio-economic character and general use of the area – who can move through the site, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it – can have an even more profound effect.

The Mitre Yard site is an existing scrapyard, heavy with industry and located in a regeneration area whose future remains unwritten. Our task with this scheme was not to simply understand the site today but to imagine it tomorrow. Using the ‘yard’ typology of public space, we developed a proposal for rented homes built with an industrial brick aesthetic and clustered around an active public space. This space will eventually be a home to a community of artists’ workshops, creating an identity for the development beyond its physicality.

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The proposal is an example of one that works with a site’s various constraints and sows the seed for a brighter future. 20 Ropemaker Street, meanwhile, has an established commercial context. This required a coherent form that could manage a difficult transition from 30 down to 10 storeys in one site, and meant we had to resolve restrictions from local and strategic views across London from all directions, all the while composing a more balanced skyline profile in existing views. After much analysis, we developed a refined stone facade that responds to views from three adjacent conservation areas, with a material palette that will complement the surrounding buildings. Again, extensive consideration of the site’s constraints paved the way for opportunities.

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People and environment

Buildings have the necessary function of serving the people who use and interact with them. Architecture affects those people, not just now but in the future – directly, as people live and work in and around them, and indirectly, as buildings affect the environment that sustains us all. It’s our responsibility to understand people’s day-to-day and broader environmental needs, as well as the influence our buildings can have on these. At Mitre Yard we’ve developed residential apartments specifically for the rental market. The flexible layouts are suitable for families as well as groups of friends, and the building as a whole seeks to promote interaction between residents, with open walkways that will increase visibility and a number of communal outdoor areas that will encourage neighbours to gather. The development will be a sustainable place where people can come together to enjoy the natural environment.

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At 20 Ropemaker Street, we’ve taken a similar approach by designing balconies on every floor, plus five roof terraces, all with excellent views – beautiful open-air spaces for employees to gather.  As with Mitre Yard, the architecture combines a high degree of solidity (to minimise energy loss) with generous, carefully placed windows that maximise views and natural daylight, providing a high-quality internal environment with a low carbon footprint.

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Client and investment

Understanding the client’s constraints and motives is crucial to the success of each project – this is how we ensure our designs are tailored to our clients’ aspirations and deliver the optimal solution for everyone involved.

For Mitre Yard, grasping the economics behind a build-to rent business was essential to responding effectively to challenges posed by the planning officers and stakeholders, including the instruction to offer public benefits without compromising viability. In a build-to-rent scheme, lifestyle and community offer additional value over apartments alone. By providing communal lounges and terraces for residents and designing the artist workshops around a public yard, we developed an attractive ‘lifestyle product’ that allows the public to engage with the scheme and residents to develop a deep connection with their home – a key driver in ensuring the apartments are let swiftly and fully.

The success of 20 Ropemaker Street will likewise be influenced by how quickly the space is let. Meeting the client’s specific aims meant designing a building with the flexibility to attract different types of business, both now and well into the future. An important component of our design is the oversized communal lobby, which we’re imagining as a ‘market square’ inside the building. It combines a café, a co-working area and event space, and functions as a semi-public place that supports community and knowledge-sharing – an attractive prospect in today’s market.

Ambition and legacy

Both Mitre Yard and 20 Ropemaker Street are ambitious schemes, and our solutions for them go far beyond a standard formulaic response. Our bespoke designs look to the future – to a world that embraces the sharing economy and places a growing emphasis on wellbeing, both at home and the workplace. In doing so, they secure a significant commercial and creative legacy for our clients, and will result in sustainable, appealing environments for the users of these new places.

It’s a tricky balance to strike, looking forward while also reflecting on the context of the site, addressing users’ and broader environmental needs, and meeting clients’ objectives. But doing so, alongside all the other considerations within the Make Charter, creates valuable assets for the next generation – thoughtful, lasting architecture that we can all be proud of.

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