Applying the EDG in practice: Exemplar Design

The Avenue Case Study

Development name: The Avenue

Location: Saffron Walden, Essex

Size: 2.9 Hectares

Architect: Pollard Thomas Edwards

Developer: Hill

Accommodation type: 76 units including 1 bedroom flats and 2-5 bedroom homes

The Avenue is a 76 unit scheme comprising of a mix of 1 bedroom apartments and 2-5 bedroom houses the scheme is a delivered by Hill in partnership with Hastoe Housing Association. The scheme includes 25% affordable housing as well as 18 flats and small houses exclusively for over 55’s.

The scheme responds sensitively to its mature landscaped context, within a Conservation Area and adjacent to a listed water tower. It creates a series of character areas which reflect the pattern and character of the neighbouring townscape and also maintains and enhances the intrinsic qualities of the site.

The heart of the scheme is a retained avenue of mature lime trees, The Avenue. The homes here are arranged around courtyards behind a new garden wall, or are set back beyond grassed and planted verges. The new landscaping includes relocated native hedgerows, planted fruit trees from existing rootstock on the site, and retention of most of the mature trees.

In 2016 the development won a RIBA National Award. On presenting the award the judges said:

‘The Avenue represents the best of new housing developments: a committed client, a skilled architect, and a site with a fabulous mature landscape. The lack of a pattern book of designs meant the architect was able to develop its own kit of parts, without reducing individuality or variety across the scheme. The palette of materials is traditional but the detailing is modern and crisp. The housing off the main avenue forms a series of courtyards that strike a clever mix of coherence and community for the owners. This is a great lesson in defensible space without the requirement for any signage – simple and successful urban design in action.’

The Avenue development exemplifies a number of the principles of the EDG including:

  • Appropriate use of materials selecting a traditional Essex material pallet with a contemporary twist, allowing the development to represent the context of traditional buildings without imitating them.
  • The series of character areas created in the development are structured so as to add up to a meaningful urban place that is both legible and navigable.
  • The development gives importance to the pedestrian scale, using buildings with an ideal building height to width ratio to provide enclosure.
  • Giving consideration to changing economies and home working; with a number of homes having study spaces provided in addition to bedrooms.
  • Responding to the challenge of maintaining existing landscape; relocating native hedgerows, planting fruit trees from existing rootstock on the site, and retaining most of the mature trees.
  • The variation in dwelling sizes and tenure types creates a community of mixed age groups, this can provide all important integration to the ageing population.

Page updated: 7/02/2018


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