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A Synergistic Urban Community

  • EUROPAN is a competition for young European architects under 40.
  • The general topic of EUROPAN, European urbanity, answers to a demand of European citizens.
  • « Urbanity » is a common way of living the city.
  • It is also a will to reflect upon the heterogeneity of its forms related to the diversity of uses.
  • It seeks to create public spaces to favour encounters among people in places they share.
  • The competition encourages architects to address social and economic changes occurring in towns and cities.
  • It offers the opportunity for cross-cultural learning and networking for the architects and site promoters involved.


Mary Duggan, Kerstin Herzinger, Joe Morris, Jan-Marc Petroschka, Carsten Struck

Chosen competition site: Stonebridge, London. The competition site is the next site in the redevelopment of a 1775 unit housing estate built in North West London in the early 1970s.


  • A strong ethnic diversity constitutes today’s community of Stonebridge.
  • A high level of unemployment (14.6%), an element of crime, drug abuse and drug dealing make Stonebridge a problem area.
  • Its build environment and social engineering need careful consideration.
  • Over 50 % of the population are young people under 25.
  • The local regeneration is a great challenge and chance.
  • It will prove vital for the mending of an increasing gap of opportunities within British urban society.
  • Europan8 is a chance to think outside of the boundaries of the competition plot.
  • It is an opportunity to rethink, to redefine the centre of the community.
  • We will also rethink the role and function of open space within the context of this specific socio-ethnic-economic backdrop.

  • The prevailing question is: How can we give the community a heart, a place of communal identity?
  • How can we create a destination?
  • How can we make a place that will have significance beyond the boundaries of the site?
  • How can we transform the image of the community, create overlays of new and positive identities?

The team introduces five distinct urban elements:

1. The village green, the town square or the market

Stonebridge Estate’s contextual and geographical centre finds an equivalent of physical spatial quality.

  • This is the heart of the community, a place and destination, a point of refer-ence and identification, a node of communication, encounter and exchange.
  • Ingredients and links are market, pond, pub, community-hall, house of worship, park and school.

Analysing the existing qualities of the competition site and its surrounding:

  • The dense and mature tree population along the old pedestrian bridge, in between the Bison Blocks.
  • The pub is judged to be a vital element of our revisited masterplan.
  • They deliver today a quality of green that could otherwise be achieved only over a period of two to three decades.
  • Otherwise, through the planting of costly, mature trees.
  • This is an existing natural resource too precious to be turn into backland or private amenity.
  • The canal feeder as connector of north and south site is further element of public amenity to be actively integrated into the proposal.
  • The northern reverberation of the recreational park of the south side could above all strengthen the ties across the A404.
  • The pub Stonebridge Park as one of the last surviving structures of Victorian times is an ideal attractor of communal activities.
  • Most communal activities and public amenity and facilities, schooling and religious places are located within the realm of Hillside.

2./3./4. The urban block, the landmark and the mountain cabins!!

  • A five storey block of flats and a triangular point house cir-cumscribe the village green.
  • Hovering above the ground they allow views and space to flow.
  • A pod below mediates between the contextual qualities of the diverging open spaces to north and south, the mountain farm and the market.
  • This is a generator of local employment and engagement.
  • It is a production of Stonebridge: i.e. organic cow and goat cheese for the high end market.

2. The urban block

  • Between the mountain meadow and the village green lies the new Bison Block.
  • The block hovers above the ground letting the landscape conceptually glide into the public square.
  • The void on ground is natural ventilation and lighting of the car park. In the gap the pod of the dairy is suspended.
  • The dairy, place of production of Stonebridge Organic Cheese.
  • It is a contextual link between the idealised countryside (with its cows, goats and chicken) and the village green (with its market as a place of exchange).
  • An accessible service spine runs through the length of the building, separating the accommodation into south-east and north-west orientated units.
  • Five stair cores puncture the spine each giving access to four flats per floor.
  • Each flat consists of four main components:
  • A large open box for living, eating, working and sleeping and the three modules of kitchen, bathroom and utility/storage space, flexible in their sequential order.
  • Sun pipes deliver natural lighting into the rear service cartridge of the units.
  • From an accessory kit half and full height storage units, walls and vertical louvers can be chosen as visual or physical dividers.
  • Units could be equally offered as shell in order to reduce the cost for first time buyers, as the service spine allows for later adaptation and future installations.
  • The elevation is treated as in similar modular fashion on a 1.2m grid.
  • A jacket of transparent fabric is spanned across the building functioning as railing, solar shading and privacy screen.
  • The south-east facing units feature balconies between the façade and screen, on the north-west orientated elevation protruding sun-lounger balconies puncture the tight sitting fabric.
  • On the eastern side of the block one core with its four units rises above the horizontal building line establishing a gate-way to the site
  • Throughout the block some units are removed.
  • These erratic punctures allow visual relieve within the building fabric and communal gardens for its residents.

3. The landmark

  • The landmark is a triangular building block, gravitating around its central axis.
  • This building forms the third elevation of the proposed village green.
  • Stepping onto the building line of the pub and the community centre it frames the main road crossing the core of the estate.
  • Two units are contained within each of the spiraling directions.
  • The service core with kitchen, bathroom and storage block is placed at the centre of each unit.
  • Six variable balcony positions will alter room and flat sizes, delivering an element of randomness and individuality to the repetitive base typology.
  • The balcony position will determine the positioning of openings within the façade.
  • Like the new Bison block a fabric for solar shading, railing and as privacy screen will be punctured by cantilevered sun-loungers.

4. The mountain cabins

  • A loose assembly of small scale individual houses are scattered along the rim of the idealised landscape.

* Lifted a few steps above ground and sitting on a solid basis, just like sculptured out of a rock.

  • The mountain cabins overlook the farm and landscaped garden.
  • The individual houses are mainly accessed by a common courtyard comprising parking spaces.
  • Just a few units have a rear garden and access from the street side animating the street side and tying the new house typology into the existing pattern.
  • All units are organized around a stacked service core and stairs in the centre.
  • This arrangement maximises the flexibility of space.
  • Possibilities range from open living to separation into a maximum of independent rooms.

!!5. The mountain meadow. The Garden of Eden. The common!!

  • This is a manhandled romantic, idealised image or represen-tation of nature.
  • The idyllic mountain farm with cows, goats and geese and chicken, is place of education, employment, local produce and sanity.

Remains of a temple. After the Romans

  • The traces of Bison Block will be kept as a reminder of Stone-bridge’s building past.
  • It will recall the fading ideas and ideals of the modern movement.
  • The plot will be overgrown.
  • Like parasites the reeds will claim back the once inhabited land to ’nature’.

  • The competition brief and Stonebridge masterplan envisage a large open park framed by terrace housing on one, apartment buildings on the other side.
  • We question the need and the success of the proposed space and location for two reasons:

1) the majority of local residents will prefer their private back gardens as outdoor amenity.
A pocket park or open area needs a critical mass of users and a clearly defined function to operate safely.
2) In a prevailing climate of disenfranchisement with society by some members of the community, with current crime rates, social tensions and negative headlines public spaces bear the potential of turning into spaces of fear instead of enjoyment, uncontrolled loitering instead of encounter.

  • The culture of public space will have to be taught and learned. Quality and quantity of public realm will have to be carefully planned.
  • Public space needs close surveillance, attracting all day and evening activities, be a through fare, a node of routes from one place to the other.

With all communal activities concentrated around the proposed village green, we decided to radically redefine the qualities and the function of the open plot, inspired by the London adaptation of Kurt Tucholky’s (1890 -1935) The Ideal

Yes, that’s what you want:!!

  • A villa with large terrace surrounded by nature,
  • To the front the Atlantic to the back Piccadilly Circus;
  • With a beautiful vista, pastoral-glamorous,
  • From the bathroom a view of Ben Nevis
  • But at night the cinema is just around the corner.

  • The land is defined as the reverse of the market square.
  • It covers part of the ecological footprint of its proposed sur-round.
  • It is the countryside within the town. It is the farm within the city.
  • It is an image and gesture of an ideal English landscape.
  • This landscape is a visual amenity only.
  • Hahas mark the borderline between the townscape and the rolling garden.
  • The footprint of the Bison Block will form a wetland ecosystem.
  • The remainder of the site is channeled in between the nursery on the east and a conglomerate of ‘cabin blocks’ to the west.
  • The difference in levels between the north and south of the green allows for playful modulation, a mountain meadow for some cows, goats and chicken.
  • Apart form the surprising and picturesque aspect of the farm, its educational purpose for local schools and kindergar-tens and some local employment opportunities we believe the farm to be a vital identity giving and pacifying factor for the local community.

Jan-Marc Petroshka