Angell Town, Brixton, England

Case Study: Angell Town, Brixton, England.

General view

(Note: larger versions of the images on this page can be viewed by clicking on the images)

Technical Data :

Location :

Angell Town, Brixton, London SW9, England.

Architects :

Burrell Foley Fischer Associates, 15 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London WC2 9DA.

Developers :

Estate owned by Lambeth Borough Council, Town Hall, Brixton Hill, London SW2 1RW.

Consultants :

Oxford Brookes Urban Regeneration Consultancy (URC), Joint Centre for Urban Design, Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford, England

Clients :

Angell Town Community Project Ltd. (ATCP), Warwick House, Overton Road, Brixton, London SW9.

Fairfax House, after remodelling

Case Study description :

Site layout

Click here to view a large scale view of the development

Community involvement and development in the urban design process of improving a problem local authority housing estate.

Background to the initiation of the project :

  • Angell Town was built in the 1970's, designed by architects from Lambeth Borough Council.
  • The morphology of the estate is a cross between 1960's blocks and 1970's traditional street layout, with overhead walkways, linking bridges, and vehicular and pedestrian separation.
  • The estate, as built, lacked social facilities as they were provided on the Stockwell Park Estate to which they were to have been linked by a bridge across the Brixton Road, which was never built.
  • Problems of of the estate included
    - lack of public space for social interaction.- derelict communal areas were unused.- the garages provided were dark and unsurveilled, and therefore, never used.- the estate was perceived as crime ridden as the multiplicity of bridges and walkways provided ideal escape routes for criminals, often from outside the estate itself.- litter accumulation resulted from removing the bridges (which gave access to the waste removal pick-up points), in an attempt to reduce crime.- the estate came to epitomize neglect and decline.- the estate became stigmatized a sink estate.

Consultation and community involvement process, resulting in urban design proposals:

  • A first attempt at resolving the problems on the estate by Lambeth Borough Council, as mentioned earlier, resulted in greater social conflict between residents - due in part, to a lack of consultation by the Council with the residents as to what was needed.
  • As a result, a small group of residents initiated the Angell Town Community Project Ltd. (ATCP), to try and improve living conditions, their way.
  • ATCP commissioned URC to set up and manage a tenant consultation process to decide what was fundamentally wrong with the estate in design terms and how matters could be improved.
  • A model of two sets of experts was introduced, to ensure that residents were consulted, and not told what was happening, these sets were :
    - a group of residents, as experts on life on the estate- URC as experts on what could possibly be done to improve conditions

  • ATCP remained in an important position throughout the process, at four levels :

- URC's consultancy contract was directly through ATCP

- A group of residents were to be trained to take an active role in running the

- The consultation process, was to involve all of the residents on the estate, as far as possible

- The process was to begin with a clean sheet, rather than proposals put forward by the URC for discussion.

  • Consultation occurred through a multitude of public resident meetings, and required good organizational skills, in order to get a representative proportion of residents to attend.
  • When proposals had been assimilated by the joint co-operation of residents and URC, an exhibition on the Estate was launched, and residents were asked to fill in questionnaires as to their thoughts on the ideas presented.
  • The final scheme was agreeable to many of the residents.

Ireton House, overlooking the firepath

Urban design propsals as a result of the consultation process :

Explanatory axonometric

Section

  • The first main part of the scheme involved re-orientating the existing deck-access housing into a more "normal" street format, based on terraced dwellings which related to the street through individual entrances. The benefits of such action were :
    - each dwelling was given an individual, recognized identity- surveillance on the street was improved, as windows now faced directly out- terraced housing replaced the monotonous, unsafe corridors of entrances.

  • The pedways, which were perceived as unsafe, were removed so that the houses could be extended to face on to the street.
  • New central grassed areas were defined as focal points for the houses. These areas were separated from the new vehicular perimeter roads by railings, enabling children to play, away from the danger of traffic and dogs.
  • The un-used garages on the ground floors were replaced with shops and community facilities, such as a bar, cafe, workshops, and even a recording studio in one area - to provide the previously, much lacked social amenities. This design measure also helped transform dark and bleak spots into animated facades of street level activity.

Fairfax House

The enterprise centre

Evaluation :

  • The scheme was successful in combining resident consultation and good urban design practice.
  • The project opened up urban design to criticism from outside the established realms of professionalism, and highlighted the importance of practical contact with the public.

Ireton House and Marston House

Sources of information on the scheme :

Reinventing the Victorian Terrace (1993),Architects Journal , Vol 198, No 5, 4th August, p.27-38.

Bentley, I , Community Development and Urban Design in Hayward, R. & McGlynn, S. (1993), Making Better Places : Urban Design Now , Butterworth Architecture, pp 72-79.

New entrances with porches and gardens

Photographs reproduced from the Architects Journal, 4th August, 1993, by kind permission of Architects Journal and Denis Gilbert, the photographer.

(Notes assembled by RUDI in consultation with Ian Bentley, co-chair of the Joint Centre for Urban Design, Oxford Brookes University).