ARCHITECTURE: Affordable Housing
Graeme Nicholls Architects
Merchant Homes Partnerships
Ashtree Road has been an important milestone for our office. It is the first of the larger schemes we have worked on since setting up in 2016 to finish on site. It has also been an excellent chance for us to showcase our narrative-led approach to design.
The developer Merchant Homes and social landlord Home Group provided us with an exciting opportunity to collaborate with them on this project for 24 flats for mid-market rent. They challenged us to design a scheme on the brownfield site which was formerly occupied by the historic 1920s swimming baths in Pollokshaws in the southside of Glasgow.
Using the principle that 'Form Follows Fiction', we view architecture as a medium to express the themes that we are particularly interested in on each project. All of our designs are specific to their context, not only physical but also typological and cultural as opposed to being generic.
At Ashtree Road, for us, this meant developing a narrative primarily related to local history.
The early 19th century saw an influx of Flemish weavers to Pollokshaws to provide the skilled workforce required for the emerging textile mills. To express this, we have incorporated a series of motifs associated with both weaving and Flemish architecture into the design.
At the broader scale, we have used a single window type for the entire project, and have arranged it in a 'woven' pattern across the façade. In addition to this, there are further allusions to the narrative in the finer-grained details of the project.
The entrances to the blocks feature black pigmented precast concrete panels with bespoke cast patterns and corresponding manifestation designs on the glazed doors. Paving at the entries have been laid in a black and white geometric pattern making another reference to weaving, but also to the tiles found in historic tenement closes in the city. Also at ground level, the black brickwork has been built in a Flemish bond with projecting perpends on the half-bricks.
The massing of the project also forms a connection with the past.
Our design consists of two blocks, each of which synthesises the prevalent typologies found on each street down the ages: a 'tenement' block to Ashtree Road and a 'villa' block to Christian Street.
It has been pleasing to see the new residents happily settling into their new homes, and that they are now creating stories of their own.