Traveller's site for Crossrail

A new travellers site, set within the confines of the Bow Triangle in London's east end, the process and the developing design set the benchmark for the local authority to base future designs

£4 million

We begun working on this new travellers site in Eleanor Street, Bow Triangle, east London several years ago. Each of the 21 new 'pitches' on the site was designed to contain an amenity block or 'chalet', external private amenity space, room to park caravans, refuse storage and an area for domestic pets and housing an individual family. The chalets themselves, the private external pitch spaces and the wider public realm areas on the site were designed with very strong sustainable influences such as green roofs, recyclable grey water, solar panels and external SUDS systems. We have designed the chalets themselves with off site fabricated SIP's panelised systems forming the shell.

The pitches would then be linked to the wider public realm by a carefully considered road network and landscaping design to bind the site together and create a greater sense of community. Set within this context and with a new triangular shaped site to work from, the positioning of the new pitches became very responsive to its context and allowed us to create a properly organised site design and a new public realm both for the site and the wider community.

Working closely with Tower Hamlets and other stakeholders, we ensured that all interests and views were recognised, understood and as far was reasonably and commercially practical included in the design of the site as it progressed. Each group had differing concerns and objectives that all needed to be managed and factored into the design. Set against this background, we embarked on a series on workshops with the stakeholders and especially with the travellers themselves over the course of many months.

Clare Donnelly, the project director and already use to large scale public consultation on other Crossrail projects and the Thames Tideway Tunnel, designed much of the site and presented these workshops, forming immediate rapport with the travelers and their families and other resident and trading groups. All views were robustly aired and the designs challenged but ultimately understood and used as a basis to democratically progress from and translate into architectural solutions. It was also through this process that we began to get an understanding of all the issues that the travelers, local residents and business groups alike faced and how by good design many of the issues on the existing site could be addressed and designed out. Through the careful staging of workshops, we managed to create a sense of understanding between the parties.

Other challenges also came in the form of the strict planning requirements that were placed on the site and being asked to work to relatively new prescriptive guidance on travellers sites which often needed challenging and testing against its functionality. We achieved this through the collaborative process and by the application of good quality and coherent design solutions. Design quality in the project has very much come from us taking a holistic approach to how a community could be formed on the site and addressing private versus public space issues.

Work on site has recently started with Fereday Pollard being retained as lead architects and an expected completion date in early 2014.

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