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With new student housing and incubator space for the London School of Fashion and community organisation Stour Trust, the recent go-ahead for Piano Works at Fish Island is a significant milestone for Hackney Wick. In total, 204 student beds in two six and seven-storey buildings are planned, with the potential to exceed a planning requirement that 35% of the student accommodation is affordable. 

Integral to its success so far, and the unanimous approval from the planning committee, is the quality of design that sets the scheme apart and the collaborative approach the project team takes in bringing these plans about.  

Designed by Henley Halebrown Architects, the Piano Works takes cues from the historic context of Fish Island and the surrounding industrial architecture. Montagu Evans was part of the design team providing heritage, townscape and visual impact advice, ensuring the proposals make the most of the historic context, the conservation area and the adjoining locally listed buildings.

Fish Island is characterised by a distinctive mix of Victorian industrial buildings, brick warehouses and chimneys, complemented by recent high-quality residential developments. It is evident that the local planning authority – the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) – ensures that the ambitious planning policies are rigorously applied. As a result, Fish Island is becoming a vibrant place with well-defined streets and public spaces framed by attractive buildings.

Tall walls previously enclosed the site, and the historic chimney and boiler house were mostly hidden from view. The new site layout offers new publicly accessible space, trees and planting, inviting people to linger and enjoy the landscaped area near the bridge that leads over the River Lee Navigation to Queen Elizabeth Park. Both the internal spaces, in terms of good living conditions for residents and users, and the elevational treatment, high-quality materials and detailing demonstrate the team’s commitment to creating a sustainable place where people want to work and live in the long term. 

As well as working closely with the local planning authority from the outset, the design team used the LLDC’s design review panel on several occasions as the plans evolved. This forum enabled a frank and open discussion about the volume of development, the height and massing, and a detailed discussion on architecture and the details of the façade to match the quality of the surrounding conservation area and contributed to a stronger planning application overall. 

As a result, these plans can positively contribute to the area’s revival with thoughtful, sensitive and inclusive buildings and a design that is both beautiful and durable – as demanded by the recently updated NPPF.

Image credit: PBSA News


heritage, city of tomorrow, london, planning, development, housing, insight