Smith­field joins the cul­ture club

The Mu­seum of Lon­don’s move to EC1 puts cul­ture at the heart of a new res­i­den­tial zone, says David Tay­lor

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - New Homes -

SMITH­FIELD will be­come one of the best-con­nected ar­eas in Lon­don when Cross­rail opens next year, with a third of the pop­u­la­tion of Eng­land sud­denly within a 45-minute jour­ney of this his­toric north-west cor­ner of the City.

Burst­ing with bars, restau­rants and tourists, parts of Smith­field have nev­er­the­less re­tained a quiet res­i­den­tial feel. How­ever, the “cul­ture club ef­fect” is about to change all that.

The Mu­se­u­mof Lon­don is plan­ning its move from Lon­don Wall, half a mile away, into its new home in re­de­vel­oped Smith­field Mar­ket’s fine Vic­to­rian build­ings. Tate Mod­ern, in the old Bank­side Power Sta­tion, is one Lon­don pearl around which new res­i­den­tial life grew, while Cen­tral Saint Martin’s art and de­sign school saw King’s Cross re­born with new homes and mixed-use de­vel­op­ments. The Mu­seum of Lon­don plans to do the same with its huge new gallery space in Smith­field, us­ing Stan­ton Wil­liams, the award-win­ning architects who care­fully cu­rated the de­sign for Cen­tral Saint Martins, where they in­cor­po­rated the Vic­to­rian roots of the old gra­nary build­ing and sym­pa­thet­i­cally built-on a stun­ning new cam­pus.

A short walk from the City and Bar­bican, Smith­field con­nects the Square Mile to Far­ring­don, Clerken­well and beyond. Built on burial grounds and clayp­its, it is rich in his­tory, with a me­dieval street plan of court­yards, lanes, al­leys and rem­nants of monas­ter­ies. St Bartholomew’s Hos­pi­tal, founded in 1123, ticks on here, while in the listed meat mar­ket build­ings, porters in white coats and hats dash along car­ry­ing car­casses and look for­ward to a pint with their break­fast fry-up at lo­cal pubs.

Mu­seum of Lon­don di­rec­tor Sharon Ament be­lieves the move will trans­form the area. “We an­tic­i­pate the change will be as pro­found or more so than Bank­side,” she says. The Vic­to­rian Gen­eral Mar­ket build­ings in West Smith­field have been the sub­ject of de­bate and many aborted re­de­vel­op­ment schemes for years. “The build­ings need to be in­hab­ited and brought back to life again and given a pro­foundly new pur­pose, which we will bring to it,” says Ament.

The mu­seum, which opened in 1976 and re­ceives about 1.25 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year, doc­u­ments the his­tory of Lon­don from pre­his­toric to present day. With the move, it aims to be­come one of the cap­i­tal’s top five most-vis­ited mu­se­ums. The scheme will open up the his­toric build­ing at West Smith­field, plac­ing gal­leries both tem­po­rary and per­ma­nent be­neath the 50ft-wide Smith­field dome, and is in­tended to pro­vide space for other sim­i­lar in­sti­tu­tions, along with a rooftop restau­rant, café and ter­race.

The project is al­ready at­tract­ing res­i­den­tial schemes. Ament says the area will be more “live­able”. There is talk of the rip­ple ef­fect reach­ing Hat­ton Gar­den jew­ellery quar­ter and even as far as City Road. The re­cent re­open­ing of Fab­ric night­club close to the mar­ket is al­ready adding to the buzz.

A NEW NEIGH­BOUR­HOOD

Less than a minute’s walk from the mar­ket, Barts Square is a ma­jor 3.2-acre res­i­den­tial and of­fices project by de­vel­oper Hel­i­cal. This new EC1 neigh­bour­hood of one-, two- and three-bed­room loft-style apart­ments and pent­houses is in a wide mix of build­ings that re­spect the area’s me­dieval foot­print.

The first phase is al­ready 75 per cent sold, with buy­ers drawn to the district’s con­nec­tiv­ity, cafés and restau­rants, and the cul­tural hub of the Bar­bican. “The Mu­seum of Lon­don is huge good news for us, a big con­tri­bu­tion to the re­gen- er­a­tion of the area,” says Hel­i­cal devel­op­ment ex­ec­u­tive Nikki Di­b­ley.

Hel­i­cal was at­tracted to Smith­field and its his­toric ar­chi­tec­ture while it was re­fur­bish­ing 200 Alder­s­gate as of­fices, and looked at the site nearby when it came up for sale. Barts Square will pro­vide 236 homes in 13 build­ings which are all of a dif­fer­ent de­sign. The aim is to pre­serve the site’s in­ti­mate na­ture. Due to the scheme be­ing con­ser­va­tion­led and low rise, says Di­b­ley, Hel­i­cal is go­ing for a va­ri­ety of unit types rather than a tower scheme with iden­ti­cal units “stacked” up the build­ing.

Barts Square has been a big hit among Bri­tish buy­ers, and it is be­lieved the ap­peal for them may lie in its flex­i­ble de­signs that ac­com­mo­date fam­i­lies and cou­ples, rather than over­seas buy­ers in­vest­ing in crash pads.

One build­ing ref­er­ences tra­di­tional Lon­don mews houses, while an­other, de­signed by Piercy&Com­pany and fac­ing the clois­ter of Grade I-listed St Bartholomew-the-Great Church, fea­tures white glazed ce­ramic tiles cast with a bas-re­lief lace pat­tern, in a nod to the lace­mak­ing that used to go on in the church.

The scheme’s fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a screen­ing room, res­i­dents’ lounge over­look­ing a com­mu­nal gar­den, pri­vate din­ing/meet­ing room and base­ment car park­ing, as well as on-site re­tail and restau­rants. The first apart­ments will be fin­ished in phased com­ple­tions this

New era: Smith­field will en­joy cul­tural sta­tus when Mu­seum of Lon­don ar­rives

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