Barking Central

London. 2010

  • Project Details
  • Completion: 2010
  • Cost: £71 Million

Barking Central links commercial needs with civic engagement to breathe life into what had become something of a forgotten Thames Gateway backwater. A cluster of new buildings – a diverse mix of forms, heights, tones and textures – are positioned around the existing Barking Town Hall to capture a civic square and reintroduce historical routes. Phase one, completed in 2007, is a U-shaped block of apartments perching on a colonnade of v-shaped props. The apartments sit above the new Barking Learning Centre that has been reinvented out of an aging public library. Phase two, completed in 2010, comprises five more buildings; three residential blocks, a 66-bed hotel and a bicycle shed for 250 bikes. The Lemonade Building, the tallest of the residential towers at 17-storeys, signposts the project from the A13 and beyond. Drawing inspiration from the site’s former R Whites factory and the leaf tones of the central arboretum, the overall colour scheme not only binds together the cluster of buildings but emphasises the protruding balconies and recessed loggias. The project is the result of a drawn-out dance between public and private interests and stands as a lived-in symbol of the wider-scale regeneration of the area.


New London Award for Joint Overall Winner 2011 New London Award for Placemaking 2011 RIBA Award for Architecture 2011 Building for Life Award 2010 Building for Life Silver Standard 2010 Housing Design Award 2010 London Planning Awards: Best New Public Space 2010 World Architecture Festival: Commended 2010 Brick Awards: Best Use of Brick and Clay Products 2009 British Construction Industry Awards: Local Authority Award 2008 European Prize for Public Urban Space 2008 MIPIM Best Mixed Use Award 2007 Housing Design Award 2005

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Barking Central is one of the most successful regeneration projects in the UK. It has revitalised Barking town centre with a large mixed-use scheme of seven new buildings including a new Learning Centre, over 500 residential apartments, a 66 bed hotel, a bicycle shed for 250 bikes, nine retail units, a café, a new town square and an arboretum.

This project demonstrates that the real key to city centre development is in not throwing away old buildings but knitting old and new together to breathe new life into the city. Regeneration is about long term investment and a consideration for what really makes a difference. The ‘Barking Central Vision’ provides local people with better prospects, a greater choice of housing and a healthier living environment.

Delivered in two phases over 9 years, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) masterplanned and designed the buildings overcoming many challenges to create a scheme that symbolises the regeneration of this Thames Gateway town.

Officially opened in September 2007, Phase I of the development included the creation of the new Barking Learning Centre with over 250 apartments above and a public square, located opposite the existing Town Hall. The key construction challenge was the retention of the original 1970s library building and the design of a new concrete frame and transfer structure built over library to support the new housing above. Phase I was delivered four months early and within budget.

As with any large scale regeneration, the scheme faced challenges that were overcome with a positive attitude towards finding solutions and the successful working relationships with a complex client group including local authority, community organisations and developers. Despite the protracted programme and the difficult procurement process, high quality design remained central to the whole team’s ambition of what could be achieved. The quality and innovation throughout the scheme prove that public/private investment can work with the right team in place. 

The new Barking Learning Centre offers a much wider range of public amenities with ICT suites, conference facilities, a one-stop-shop, cafe, art gallery, classrooms as well as library facilities. AHMM persuaded the client to allow them to retain control the FF&E contract for the library - raising the standard to include bespoke furniture and branding/wayfinding by leading contemporary designers, including long-term collaborator Studio Myerscough. Since opening in 2007, the library has seen a dramatic increase in users and is now open until 10pm, bringing new life into the centre of Barking.

The Public Realm

The spaces between this new townscape were designed by muf architecture/art and include a formal square, a brick folly and an Arboretum. The design principles of the scheme were to create a vibrant, diverse and high quality environment that also introduces and reinforces links to the wider context of Barking Central.

The public realm provides an unusual and dynamic ground plan which unites all the building elements of the scheme. The buildings each have individual characters expressed in form and material approach thus providing variety within the urban fabric and making Barking Town Centre a landmark development.

Creating Variety and Working Together

The masterplan establishes a group of carefully positioned urban buildings.  The buildings are deliberately designed so that they share features to unite them and bring consistency to the new quarter.  In contrast individuality of each building is encouraged to enhance the urban experience.  This is achieved through the form of the building, the cladding materials and the architectural detailing.  As a result a collection of buildings is established of varying forms, heights and characters, which are tied together by consistent approaches to massing, balconies and also through the use of colour.

The site and town centre as a whole has a rich history of industrial uses such as a Rope Works, R Whites Soft Drinks Factory, and Piano Factory.  AHMM worked with long time collaborator Studio Myerscough, to create identities for each building from the beginning of the scheme, drawing on the history of site for names and colours.

Phase II included the construction of the remaining 5 buildings consisting of residential apartments, a hotel and a bike shed.

Rope Works
(named after the original Rope Works, situated in Barking Central, circa 1890) sits on top of the structure for the BLC, and is further supported on a dramatic colonnade of V columns. The balconies are coloured green at the east end of the elevation shading to yellow at the west - inspired by the colours of R Whites who previously inhabited the site.

House (named after the Old Bath House which was used for town meetings) defines the north side of a new public square designed in collaboration with muf architecture/art. The massing of the building relates to that of the BLC and Rope works, to formally enclose the public space with buildings of consistent datum.

Building (named after the R Whites factory which previously inhabited the site) sits between Bath House and the Rope Works terminating the view of the Arboretum. The height of the building responds to the tower of the Town Hall at the other end of the Arboretum, whilst providing a signal representing both the heart of the town centre and its regeneration.

Piano Works
(named after the Piano Factory which previously inhabited the site) was originally designed as a Commercial Building. Late on in the development of the Masterplan, the brief changed to incoporate a 66-budget hotel The building sites between the existing Police Station and The Lemonade Building on the Ripple Road frontage.

Axe Street
(named after the adjacent road) is a residential building addressing the existing datum set by the new buildings on the street. The monochromatic colour is used to contrast with the complex colours used in the neighbouring buildings.

The residential accommodation in the scheme contains a variety of 1,2 and 3 bed units, each with its own private amenity space. Each of the building expresses a different character in height and massing with either inset or projecting balconies. The colours introduced to the balconies and recesses compliments the vibrancy of phase I and also takes inspiration from the arboretum trees. This introduces variegated spring to autumn leaf colours.

Now completed, Barking Central has created a vibrant, dense and high quality townscape that has reconnected parts of Barking, with active ground floor street edges, public amenities such as the Learning Centre, set around new public spaces. The scheme has already won prizes for housing, use of materials and public realm design, and sets a new standard for future urban regeneration, and the following projects in Barking Town Centre.

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