As the Housing and Planning Bill makes its way through Parliament carrying a measure that would see planning permissions automatically granted on brownfield sites, theRoyal Academy has invited four London architects to explore different possibilities for development on brownfield sites and creatively forge their own visions for bringing specific sites back into use.

As part of the Academy’s Architecture Programme, Atelier Kite joined alma-nac, Chetwoods and Maccreanor Lavington & East to present to a panel of architecture and housing experts, which included the Evening Standard’s architecture critic, Robert Bevan and Kate Goodwin, the Academy’s Head of Architecture.

The need of brownfield sites to adapt to a capital in flux

A common theme was using brownfield sites to help alleviate social issues in the capital. Additionally, responding to changing business practises and people’s daily habits was key to the viability of the schemes.

For instance, Atelier Kite presented a proposal to combat problems that arise in kitchens from flat sharing and revolutionise the way we think of and utilise that space.

Meanwhile, Chetwoods set out to solve problems associated with expansive warehouses in London by proposing development of the Royal Mail’s unused six mile twin tunnel postal route between Paddington and Whitechapel.

Maccreanor Lavington & East meanwhile, reacted to the proposed sale of multiple old courthouses around the country, considering the social impacts and how to build closer communities through creative re-use of the existing stock.

Courthouse transformations

Three interesting points arose from Maccreanor Lavington & East’s proposals.

Firstly, an imbalance exists in London between housing growth and that of community and social infrastructure and old Courthouses could be redeveloped to better serve the community.

Secondly, the courthouses could become civic and social hubs in the community, whilst potentially keeping a courtroom function, avoiding duplication of building uses in the area and forging closer societal ties.

Thirdly, the practice see similar potential regarding UK courthouses as has happened previously with Prison building reforms in Sweden, and potentially, soon the UK. By more accurately reflecting the world around them both internally and externally, the buildings can be better fit for purpose. Changing courthouses’ physical structure could bridge a gap between transparency of the courts and the public.

The positives of such a scheme are clear to see. Whist it is not site specific, this could allow the concept of adapting courthouses to better suit a community’s needs rolled out on a larger scale. Furthermore, designing spaces for multiple uses is vital in creating more efficient uses of space when it is so scarce in London.

However difficulties would arise in attracting reinvestment into these new community hubs and fostering the political motivation to overhaul the current structures.

What’s next?

The practices will return to update on their ideas in March 2016, culminating in exhibitions presenting their proposals to the public in May 2016.