Frequent users of Deptford station will have noticed a great deal of work happening over the past few weeks. Looking down from platform one you can see the great progress which is being made to refit the arches and turn them into commercial units. The plans are currently with Lewisham Council and members of the Deptford Society have submitted our thoughts on the proposals. As it’s a listed building what we end up with will be difficult to get rid of, because it becomes part of a listed structure, as well as setting the standard for the smaller arches being refurbished by Cathedral so it’s important to get things right.
Internal cladding to the arches
The fact that the cladding to the inside of the arches conceals the existing brick is extremely disappointing. If it is the case that the existing brickwork cannot be waterproofed from above (as has been attempted within the station arches) then greater consideration needs to be given to options on how to provide waterproofing and the consequences of that choice for incoming tenants of this use class. Whilst it effective, the system proposed is more suited to light industrial units which are generally not seen from the public realm. The form of this material will inevitably impact on the form and geometry of and subsequent cosmetic ceiling treatment; the drawings are not clear in indicating whether or not the plastic cladding is curved or faceted. If this system were to be approved, the documents should include a number of approved cosmetic ceiling treatments for tenants to adopt. Detailing of the junction between the glazing and the internal ceilings should also be determined at this time and not left to chance or to a shop-fitter to resolve.
The use of mock-timber aluminium strip panelling either side of the arches is particularly unsatisfactory; this material is not suited to being cut to complex forms such as the inside of an arch. The detail at the junction with the brick arch has not been drawn and there is a concern that the cut ends of the thin aluminium (which will buckle when cut) will require the addition of a trim to follow the curve of the arch which will look quite unsightly. The brochure for this material shows it being applied to buildings of regular and rectilinear form; where the ends of the cladding strips are cut straight and not curved. However aside these concerns about detailing, is a concern about the fake-ness of this material and its suitability in this application; can the applicant show what precedence exists for the use of this material?
Detailing of the glazing and reveals
Whatever external cladding material is decided on, this needs to be extended to cover the inside reveal of the window. The internal extension as this would emphasise the transparency of the facade and help to extend the outside in and vice versa.
These are not clearly detailed but are described as powder-coated aluminium with glass infill, this is not what is portrayed on the 3D visuals as these show frameless glass doors set within a flush glazed facade which would be preferable and in keeping with the frameless glass facade.
The section drawings show a floor described as a ‘hard standing’ outside the threshold of the glass entry doors, this is an infill between the doors and the existing (new) granite sets. The granite sets should be reinstated and extended to the threshold of the doors. This needs to be stipulated very clearly on the drawings.
Relative floor levels
The internal floor level is shown set flush with the outside granite sets; this limits the choice of internal flooring materials; should the tenant want to instal an underfloor heating system or a polished concrete screed or a timber floor, they will find the level change to be unacceptable; the painted floor finish should be set lower than the external level to allow for this; these units must be designed to be fit for purpose.
The ventilation grilles that appear in the glazing reveals are extremely prominent in the front facade; the drawings show them as standard size panels cut into the cladding system; there is no attempt to integrate them into the design. The new facades are to a listed building off a major urban space; good detailing and choice of materials and components are key to the success of this project . Lack of coordination of elements such as these grilles (and the signage) will lead to the facades looking poorly considered.
The scheme includes no external lighting; up-lighting of the brick arches from the side reveals would help enhance and compensate for the loss of visible brick internally. This ought to be included in the application so that there is a consistency in the appearance of the arches at night.
The aluminium signage boards described are not as depicted on the 3D visuals, on some arches these drawings show cut out letters fixed to the cladding panels. Signage design (as opposed to advertising consent) needs to be very carefully controlled; at present the only statement relating to the design of these is that the colour will be decided by the Contract Administrator (CA). This is far from satisfactory.
Orientation of the facades
Orientation of the glazing is skewed relative to the side walls; there is a concern therefore that the geometry of the shop fronts will be irregular, not a pure arch but an oval; this has not not been observed in the design. It would be easier to orientate the facades at 90 degrees to the walls of the arch and the result ought to be more build-able and therefore of a higher quality.
The relationship between the security shutter box and the glazing is very unsatisfactory; the drawings seem to indicate that the shutter box is either right up against the inside of the clear glazing which would create a dust-trap or its so close that cleaning between it at the glass will at best be extremely difficult and unlikely to be carried out. Whilst this is an internal feature, not only is the glass clear affording clear views of the dust and debris from the outside but the application is for works to a listed structure; the interior is listed as well as the exterior. The consequences of this not poor detailing not being addressed are significant.
The type, colour and visual permeability of the security shutter is not stipulated; the application should not be approved without confirmation that it is an ‘open mesh’ shutter.
The extent to which these are visible from outside the site is not clear from the drawings however this is a listed structure and any intervention needs to be properly detailed; the materials chosen and the detailing of the rear extensions has to be questioned. These are of very poor quality and do not appear to be durable.
Whilst the submission of construction drawings for a listed buildings application helps to identify the failings in the scheme, these also become the legal documents and description of the proposals. There are several instances where the drawings leave critical decisions to the contract administrator use if terms ‘equal or approved’ means by the CA and not the planners; this clearly needs to be rectified.
I realise that my comments focus mainly on details and materials (much of the form of the building being somewhat predetermined) but I do believe that when it comes to making alterations to a listed structure, the details are critical. The details seem to have been developed as if the intended use was light industrial units rather than retail or restaurant; the cladding of the arch and inherent problems with detailing the chosen materials successfully are illustrations of this point.
You can view and comment on the planning application on Lewisham Council’s planning portal. Please feel free to use the above comments as a basis for you thoughts if you agree that the plans need some improvement.