Assael and The Collective have been given the go ahead by Wandsworth Council (8-1) for 292-room co-living development in Earslfield, Wandsworth.
The constrained site along the River Wandle will be opened up for the first time across a collection of buildings ranging between six to eight storeys, connecting it to its natural surroundings and creating a thriving hub for both residents and the wider community.
Assael’s design pays homage to the historical background of the previously industrial site, drawing on the long and rich history of the River Wandle, where gun powder, tobacco, paper and textile mills once lined the banks of the river, powered by its current.
The architecture and materials, including brick, exposed steel, pitched roofs and sculptural escape staircases, reference the heritage of the area, giving the scheme a clear identity and sense of place.
In addition, the palette of red and pink brick tones used across the scheme aims to create the appearance of a collection of buildings built up over time, inspired by how the mills were extended progressively over the years as their capacity grew.
As a co-living development, the internal design of the building was as carefully crafted as the exterior. Assael’s design sought to prioritise community and flexibility throughout the scheme with a generous amenity offering, including a cinema room, communal kitchens, co-working spaces, a gym and library, and adaptable spaces that can be transformed according to the evolving needs of The Collective’s members.
Assael’s team benefitted from gaining insight into data gathered by The Collective on their flagship Old Oak scheme in north west London. By understanding how residents in existing co-living developments used the spaces, Assael adjusted their design accordingly. One such design implication was the creation of a larger ‘Masterchef’ style communal kitchen where residents can cook, eat and socialise in larger numbers for community building and to help mitigate loneliness.
With the design also seeking to invite the surrounding community into the building, a large double-height ground floor flexible space enables pop-up retail opportunities to help bolster enterprise in Earlsfield.
Externally, the proposed design will create a new bridge to improve pedestrian access to the site and to the new riverfront café at ground floor that will be open to the public. The scheme will also facilitate a connecting route to continue the Wandle Trail, improving access through the site, from Earlsfield through to the river, for residents and the public.
Tim Chapman-Cavanagh, director at Assael Architecture, said:
“For us, Garratt Mills was an incredible opportunity to experiment with the industrial history of the River Wandle and create a scheme driven by both interaction and community. Our design seeks to emulate the importance of the river, drawing on its industrial roots, while opening up the site so residents and the wider public can benefit from its natural beauty and ecological abundance. The prominence of the river features throughout the scheme, with certain roof terraces being orientated in order to benefit from the sound of its current, and the ground floor frontage opening up the site to its banks.
“The industrial tones of the façade and roofscape offer a contemporary take on the mills that were once a common sight in Earlsfield, with the River Wandle powering 64 mills in its heyday. Despite the area shedding its industrial past, we wanted the architecture of Garratt Mills to give off the robust aesthetic of a working mill.
“Designing the scheme for one of the leading co-living developers meant that the amenity offering, wayfinding and communal facilities within the building were of the highest standard. By drawing on our experience with Build to Rent, we were able to ensure that the internal design was functional and efficient to operate, while creating plenty of detailing and features to draw on the site’s heritage.”