Status: On site
Location: Acton, London
Number of homes: 116
Number of school places: 1,200
Size (m2): 12,400
Contractor: ISG Plc.
Landlocked, overlooked, single-use, anti-social. The former Acton college site on Gunnersbury Lane had a corrosive presence on the local community, its stale buildings a blight on the area, disenfranchised local youths using it as a place to prowl. Time for change, real change.
Mixed-use sites thrive, single-use sites suffer. We saw an opportunity to deliver so much more than just a school, tackling issues inherent in this unloved site. Taking on anti-social behaviour directly with the provision of first-class public facilities for all to use, and community building by putting living and working alongside learning, to bring vibrancy and depth to this previously-singular site.
All over London we've seen how easy it is for developers to bulldoze the lives of the local community, poor consultation and hurried planning displacing real people and replacing them with artificial, isolated, identikit communities. This was a chance to reverse that process.
Challenging the sole use of the land, we opened the site up to a whole host of new uses. With Ark Soane Academy at the centre, we added 116 new homes to the scheme, all wrapped in landscaped public realm and fronting Woodlands Park, reconnecting the site back up with the wider urban fabric – accentuating the core energy of the place, remaining a hotbed for learning, but with a new collective focus, a place greater than the sum of its parts.
Where others saw a simple school on a difficult to integrate piece of land, we saw an opportunity to overturn the land-use, to allow for true mixed-use regeneration, not only providing a new purpose-built secondary and sixth form school together, but adding a surrounding community to the site, consisting of high-spec homes, a gym, public facilities and landscaped public realm.
By taking a landlocked, overlooked site and opening it out, inviting the community in, building up rather than talking down, we overdelivered for the local community who were expecting a school, and got so much more besides.