Using our experience in the purpose-built rental market and The Collective’s knowledge of the nascent co-living sector, Garratt Mills is an innovative co-living development focused around shared amenity spaces, community uses and landscaping.
The design draws on the industrial history of the River Wandle to revive and open up this dormant site to create 310 co-living rooms and a thriving community hub for residents and the public.
A rich history
The architectural language takes reference from the industrial history of the River Wandle, where gunpowder, tobacco, paper and textile mills were once powered by the river, with hand-set brick, exposed metalwork, structural escape staircases, crittal-style windows and exposed structures.
The varied roof form, range of heights from six to eight storeys, and palette of red and brick tones used across the development aims to create the appearance of a collection of buildings built up over time, inspired by how the historical mills of the past were extended progressively over the years as their capacity grew. The objective is to give the development a sense of timelessness, allowing it to blend into its setting and age gracefully on the riverfront, whilst providing a clear identity and sense of place.
The historical and contextual inspiration flows through to the interiors where the concept is ‘wabi-sabi’, a traditional Japanese world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection, in this case the earthy and industrial River Wandle.
Creating a community
As a co-living development, the internal design and layout has been driven by community-building and social interaction with a generous amenity offering that includes a cinema, communal kitchens, co-working spaces, a gym, library, roof terraces with growing areas, and adaptable spaces that can be transformed according to residents’ evolving needs.
A feature staircase, with a mosaic of rooflights above, provides a central link to both buildings and all amenity spaces, giving clear legibility for residents and visitors.
At ground floor, a riverside café and flexible co-working and community uses available to residents, neighbours and local businesses, all set within extensive landscaping and natural riverside surroundings, aims to create a thriving hub for the wider community.
A ‘Mill Yard’ is the working heart of the development, surrounded and activated by the café, main entrance and publicly-accessible cycle workshop, which has been designed to provide a facility for users of the popular pedestrian and cycle route along the Wandle Trail, the extension of which is also being facilitated below the railway line bridge as part of the proposals.
Collaboration with The Collective
To fully understand the needs of the residents and how they will use their co-living space, Assael used insight and data gathered from The Collective on their existing developments to influence the design and create a home that encourages sociability and community.
This prompted the inclusion of a larger ‘Masterchef’ style communal kitchen where residents can cook, eat and socialise together, building a true sense of community. It also led to larger rooms, including duplex loft-style rooms, a large percentage of rooms available at discount market rent for key workers and care-leavers, generous roof terraces, and the large double-height community space fronting the river.