London's first 'Olympic legacy' village scoops prize at the building Oscars

The winners of the London Planning Awards, dubbed the building world’s Oscars, have been announced in 10 categories by Mayor Boris Johnson at City Hall.
The victors and runners-up of this year's London Planning Awards range from a concept home called Pop-up Hawse, which could be built for £20,000 in a disused garage to help disadvantaged single Londoners get a temporary foot on the ladder; to the Glass Mill Leisure Centre on the lower floors of a 28-storey Lewisham tower, with a gym and an eight-lane, 25-metre competition swimming pool funded by residential accommodation above; to a revamp of a romantic public space built over a substation at Brown Hart Gardens, W1. Making new places and communities and improving our city at home, work and play is at the heart of these awards, now in their 11th year. The 10 categories range from new build to regeneration, from concept homes to actual homes, from new public spaces to new town centres. The variety reflects the unprecedented pace and scale of change going on in London.

The awards are special because in each case, complex planning problems must be overcome. But since constraint is the parent of invention, the winning solutions are ingenious.

East Village is London’s first “Olympic legacy” village, set in 27 hectares of parkland, with numerous transport links through Stratford, as well as an education campus and medical facilities. It won two awards, including the Mayor’s special award for planning excellence. With increasing calls to create new garden cities outside London to help address the UK housing crisis, East Village is probably the closest the capital will ever get to a new garden suburb within its borders, designed to be plug-in-and-go, with homes for singles, couples and families on a wide range of tenures and a new E17 postcode.

In the conceptual category, the winner was Ealing council’s Copley Close. The council is planning an ambitious low-carbon regeneration of this big estate of more than 600 homes, revamping most and adding 200 new ones, plus new shops. As both developer and landlord the council plans what it terms “tenure-blind” housing to help create a truly mixed community. The land is owned by Network Rail. 

Pop-Up Hawse, the conceptual category runner-up, also attracted a lot of attention. This clever submission won a Building Trust International competition in 2012 to design a housing solution for people at the bottom of the pile.

In the public realm, the winner was Woolwich in Greenwich. The tired old public squares — one hosting a historic market — got a modern makeover that retained and improved their existing use. Beresford Square still has a market, but General Gordon Square got soft landscaping of grass and trees, as well as hi-tech, water-scrimmed paving that can be drained for performances. The squares are now used day and night and are very pedestrian-friendly, to invigorate the town centre.

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