Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A touch of Sweden on classic English territory

LONDON/SNAPSHOTS OF CHANGE. Standing in the courtyard of Forum House, the first in a series of new residential buildings next to Wembley Stadium, things feel distinctly familiar.
The balconies of the building, the bike sheds and the portals to the high-tech waste management system, it all looks very much like the Hammarby Sjöstad district just outside of central Stockholm.
And that’s why I’m here, of course.
I wanted to see an example of ideas that have spread from the Swedish showcase of modern urban development, through the many study groups that have visited Hammarby Sjöstad over the past decade.
Representatives of Quintain Estates and Developers, a British developer with a strong interest in sustainability, made the trips on several occasions during the planning process of Wembley City, one of London’s most modern residential districts now under construction next to the iconic Wembley Stadium.
“There were many lessons that we have learned from trips to Stockholm, and other cities as well,” says Julian Tollast, Head of Design Development at Quintain, when I meet him later at the company headquarters in central London.
“What’s interesting with Hammarby Sjöstad is trying to get an understanding of what has worked both in public realm design and in building design, and also the management of public realm buildings and how that is then explained to the wider audience,” says Julian Tollast.
One of the things that caught the interest of the visiting Quintain delegation in Hammarby Sjöstad was the vacuum waste disposal system designed and installed by the Swedish company Envac. I’ll get back to that.
Tollast shows me a series of photos from his visits to Stockholm; front doors, mail boxes, balconies, more balconies (“I get sadly obsessed”, he admits with laughter).
“Design development can add value, and not just financial value, but also social, economic and environmental value at all scales from district to doorknob”, he explains.
It’s a beautiful spring day when I take the Bakerloo line tube westwards to Wembley Central, a 20 minute ride from central London. A ten minute walk through this ethnically mixed neighbourhood takes me to the giant, new Wembley Stadium, opened in 2007 with seats for 90,000 spectators.
The arch above the stadium is a new landmark that the world will learn to know in the summer of 2012, when parts of the Olympic Games will be held here. Wembley Stadium could also be the scene for the 2018 football (soccer) World Cup, if the English bid is successful.
The new stadium is just one part of the regeneration of Wembley. Quintain’s project covers the area around the stadium and the new Wembley City will ultimately hold over 4,000 homes, hotels, shops, restaurants, offices and new public spaces like the Arena Square between the stadium and the refurbished indoor Wembley Arena.
Forum House, the first of the residential buildings, was completed in 2008. Quadrant Court (right), the second building, is nearing completion. Next in line is a student home, a hotel and a designer outlet. The project might run another 15-20 years before it’s completed.
The symbol of Quintain’s sustainability ambitions is the Envac waste management system, the first to be installed in the United Kingdom. The system allows Quintain to maximise space use and minimise carbon emission through unnecessary traditional waste collection.
Rubbish is now collected at one central collection station, which through underground pipes receives waste from the buildings in the neighbourhood.
Julian Tollast and his colleagues were inspired by what they saw as “clever touches” when they visited Hammarby Sjöstad.
“The Envac portals are part of the public realm, together with the bike sheds. It’s a simple detail. You walk out in the morning with your rubbish, little and often, and then you hop on your bike”, says Tollast.
The Envac scheme fits well with Quintain’s environmental profile. CEO Adrian Wyatt pushed for the waste management system, wanting to look beyond the initial costs for the investment. Now people choose Wembley City partly because of the environmental profile.
Julian Tollast sees Hammarby Sjöstad as an inspiration, and now ideas will spread further through the Wembley City development.
“Yes, I think so. Because now Wembley City is becoming a place that people want to come and see.”

This is the fourth and final glimpse at the ongoing regeneration of London.

Classic territory; living next to Wembley Stadium.

Copyright: Quintain Estates and Development
Wembley City as it might look in the future. Forum House to the far right.

Forum House and the waste management system from Envac.