During the 1940s my late Father studied architecture at the South East Essex Technical College in Longbridge Road Barking, later to become the Barking Campus of the University of East London and then sold in 2006 for housing.  “Academy Central” developed by Taylor Wimpey has preserved the main building and put housing on the surrounding land as advertised at their website here

Living space

I had a quick look at the plan for a two bedroom flat and noted immediately that it is corridor access single aspect.  The kitchen, bathroom and ensuite shower are all internal having no natural light.  The provision of two bathrooms and toilets in a space intended at most for two adults and two children, and more likely a couple with a guest room, seems excessive and takes useful space away from the master bedroom.  There is a stub wall only between the kitchen and living space and no dining room.

Kitchen

Cooking smells will accumulate in the living room, unless some form of extraction is present (not immediately obvious from the plan).  Through ventilation is not possible without opening the door to the corridor which will compromise security and provide an opportunity for a young child to run out into semi-public space.

The kitchen is not a room of its own but rather a stub from the living space.  There is not sufficient space in the kitchen for a table which would have to be in the living room.  Food preparation will have to take place while staring at a blank wall or cupboards without the benefit of light coming from or a view out over the sink nor the opportunity for passive surveillance of the neighbourhood to enhance security.

Floor space

From the illustrated plan linked above the GIA amounts to 10.21 x 6.83 = 69.73m2 excluding balcony, which is almost exactly the Parker Morris figure for a 4 person flat, and slightly over the English Partnerships figure of 66m2 for 3 people.  The HCA minima for a 2 bedroom 4 person flat is 71m2 which this example flat falls short of.  An adult would hopefully have had a healthy childhood before reaching maturity or if not expect better for their children, but a growing child cannot lawfully be denied access to those needs which will ensure their development and that includes space in which to play indoors in bad weather, and adequate light within the dwelling.

Sunlight

I fear for the well being of the occupants of the North facing single aspect flats on the Western side of the main building in the corner.  It is clear that the West wing of the building shadows the windows from afternoon and evening sunlight.  Even the morning situation is less than ideal.  At the optimum time, Midsummers Day, which in 2010 falls on June 21st, sunrise is at 04:39bst but by about 07:40bst the rising sun has reached the East wing of the main block at an elevation of 23° from which time the corner flat is again in shadow.


http://www.iesmith.net/tools/solarcalc.html

Quite what benefit the occupants are likely to derive depends entirely on their rising time but at best they are not likely to see much more than an hour of sunlight and not at all from then on.  While it is true that the elevation of the sun will increase, it is questionable whether or not it will be sufficiently elevated to clear the roof of the East wing before its azimuth meets the front of the main building from when on the corner flat will be in shadow for the rest of the day.

The reader may wish to consider the situation in the opposite corner on the Eastern side where no morning sun whatever will be seen and what Western sun there is will be limited indeed.

There is a computer generated image in the brochure that is remarkably kind in portraying the amount of sunlight to reach the courtyard in front of the former college building, to such an extent that I doubt its veracity.  Using the sunlight calculator linked above I have found the maximum elevation of the sun at noon on 21st June 2010 to be 61 degrees.  From http://www.visualtrig.com or using simple trigonometry on paper and allowing a height of 33′ (a guess of 12′ per floor and 3′ for the parapet) for the main building frontage gives 21.6′ for the shadow.

Outside space

None of the flats that I’ve looked at on the plans for the main building have their own outside space.  Neither balcony, terrace or garden.  Where do the occupants go for fresh air other than back into public space?  Where do the smokers go, where does one go to read a paper outside in good weather? Where do the children play?

GLA report

The development includes a large number of single aspect flats and reading through the GLA report on the development prior to planning permission being granted they had this to say:-

Concern was raised previously regarding the quantum of single aspect housing within the proposal. The applicants have provided additional information which illustrates the proportion of single aspect units and their orientation. This demonstrates that the majority of these units are either east/west or south facing, although 61 units are solely north facing (6% of overall provision). The north facing units are one and two-bed units. Whilst a degree of single aspect flats can be considered a consequence of high density housing, the proportion within this scheme remains high (35% of overall provision). [my emphasis - Ed.]

They go on to justify this on the basis that improvements have been made to the rest of the scheme as if this obviates the need to avoid single aspect housing, and North facing at all costs.

However, given the level of design improvements made to the scheme following the former Mayor’s consideration of the proposal, the provision of a large proportion of family accommodation with houses, and the fact that the majority of the single aspect units are not solely north facing, on balance the design of the proposal is acceptable

Plans

The planning application reference is:- 06/01284/OUT

Type that into the top window entitled Application Reference and away you go.

I’ve linked the worst offenders from this post, blocks A (the old main building), E and F.

Block A  click here for original layout

Block A click here for new floor plans

Block E click here for elevations of new block

Block F click here for plans of new block

History

In the 1920s the town of Barking spread east along the Longbridge Road and by 1936 the South East Technical College was opened on the Site. The main building was H-shaped in plan and fronted onto Longbridge Road. It was designed by J.Stuart, the Essex County architect and is described by Pevsner as a symmetrical building with projecting wings and a seven bay centre with a solid stone cupola. The building was a three storey structure, constructed of pale brick with some good cast stone decoration. There were further buildings in the complex of single and two storey construction in conjunction with a grassed quadrangle and associated grounds. Longbridge Farm still occupied the Site during this period of expansion.

From University-of-East-London-Barking-Campus-Longbridge-Road-Greater-London

In 1936 the county council opened the South East Essex Technical College, which also housed a technical school.

From British history.ac.uk

Opinion

The original plans for the main building clearly shows what were lecture theatres or assembly halls, one of which might have been retained in the scheme as an exhibition hall for small events as a way to cement the community to be but commercial considerations would appear to have demanded that all the space be devoted to flats.

I think that there must be a better way to design flats given the space available rather than just building what amount to cupboards for people.

UPDATE: I went to see the site yesterday 23/6/2010.  The project is well underway with the main building gutted and flats being constructed, I was told that 20 had already been sold and were inhabited although it wasn’t obvious which these were.  Photographs below.

From Longbridge Road

There is a showroom in the courtyard of the main building, visible in the picture below, but no flats for viewing that are available to purchase, something I found astonishing.  Apparently they are being bought and sold off-plan  There is instead a 911 sq ft two bedroomed, two bathroomed, no kitchen show flat which exists simply to show finishes.  It is single aspect and located at the front of the building close to the showroom, inside and to the right.

Main building front elevation

The show flat is light and bright, owing to large windows, white walls and the fact that when I visited it was 2pm and sunny, creating a lot of reflected North light into the building.  The construction of the internal walls is dry lined metal partition. High ceilings and adequate room sizes are reflected in the show flat.  How these features would make themselves apparent in a one bed will perhaps only be known to the buyer given that there will never come a time when one is for show.

Rear of main building showing area where flats will be

The most disappointing feature of the flat is the fact that the entirely redundant second bathroom occupies the space that should be the kitchen, albeit I’m ignoring the single aspect nature of the flat for the time being.  What one has instead are two bathrooms of virtually the same size in a two bedroom flat with kitchen units along the internal wall with an extractor hood over the hob.  When I asked if this was extracted to the outside the answer was yes.  I’d like to see it in action.

Site from park

Let’s face it how ever nicely they’re finished they are still North facing single aspect flats with a bathroom in place of the kitchen.  I wouldn’t live there at any price.

Houses on Lodge Avenue

What can one say about a house except that given the main building plans it would be vastly preferable to one of their flats.  At least a house has more than one external door.

UPDATE: 24th November 2010. Assael have read this article.  Stats below:-

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