Praise for tower block shortlisted for London’s best building award

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Residents have heaped praise on a tower block on the site of a former notorious estate that narrowly missed being crowned London’s best building.

Orchards Gardens, which sits where part of the old Heygate Estate used to be in Southwark, was shortlisted as the capital’s building of the year.

The 19-storey block includes 228 flats, restaurants and a library around a shared garden. People said the development was a huge improvement on what was there before, praising the building for polishing up the area.

Antoine Lubwama said he could see why the building was in with a chance of winning an award.

The 21-year-old said: “It definitely has a nice appearance. I pass through here weekly and you can tell the outside structure is good.

“I would say it’s an improvement for the neighbourhood. I can see why it has been nominated for a prize.”

But Elephant and Castle local John Dunn, 59, was less impressed with the development – criticising it for its lack of cheap housing.

He said: “I’m not a fan. If it was genuinely serving the community it would be a good thing but there’s very little social housing.

“Its obvious target is gentrification and moving other people out of the area.

“The restaurants and shops are pretty rubbish, too – there’s very little to them.

“Everything is really expensive and it does not serve the community.

“I’m aware the Heygate Estate was pretty horrendous but notwithstanding it’s not an improvement for the people who were living here. It’s just catering for a whole bunch of different people.”

The Heygate Estate, which was bulldozed between 2011 and 2014, was home to 1,194 flats available at cheap social rents.

The £1.2 billion Elephant Park development, which Orchard Gardens forms part of, has just 74 socially rented apartments out of 2,500 homes.

Orchard Gardens was one of a number of developments battling it out to be crowned London’s building of the year. RIBA – Britain’s leading architecture organisation – announced the winner yesterday.

The RIBA journal, RIBA’s magazine, praised the Orchard Gardens development for creating a new neighbourhood and recognising the area’s history.

An article published on May 5 said: “Designed to be viewed as a cluster of buildings, it wraps around a sunny communal garden, with sophisticated and playfully contrasting scales and heights ranging from five to 19 storeys.

“The vibrant composition of these elevations enhances the quality of place-making around the site, creating an approachable neighbourhood, resonant of historic groups of buildings that have developed over time, without appearing contrived.”

Pictured top: Orchard Gardens in Elephant and Castle (Picture: Robert Firth)

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