Chelsea Barracks

Chelsea Barracks - Design

RSHP’s original masterplan of 2008 provided a redevelopment of the site to include 319 market and 319 affordable residential units (ie a total of 638 units) and a 50:50 split between the two housing types on the same site, a 108-bedroom hotel, 2,198m2 retail, 7,386m2 community sports centre and a 1,717m2 community hall. All car-parking is provided beneath the development and no private vehicles are permitted on the site.

RSHP was also retained to design the market residential units, with AHMM commissioned for the affordable housing.

The design of the market residential units has taken its inspiration from the purpose-built mansion blocks of Sloane Court to the north west, a series of five-storey buildings separated by 12-metre-wide communal gardens. The residential elements form a series of stand-alone buildingswhich help to create a visually open and highly permeable development that encourages public use of routes through the site. Sedum roofs provide a ‘soft’ surface to the tops of all the buildings. A proposed biomass fuelled combined heat and power plant (CHP) will operate alongside a gas fuelled CHP system. Together, these will supply energy to all buildings through the Pimlico District Heating System and via a local electricity grid. The façades of the market units comprise interstitial horizontal blinds fronted by fins made from patinated copper alloys. These add solidity to the design and provide solar control and privacy. They range in colour from a deep rich red to reflect the saturated brick found to the north of the site along Pimlico Road through to a grey-blue that reflects the stock brick found along Ebury Bridge Road.

Over the course of two-and-a-half years, more than 80 meetings with local community groups and statutory consultees were held, as well as three public exhibitions. The scheme design was revised to take into account the comments and concerns which were expressed by all parties. The overall mass of the development was significantly reduced, improving the quality of the public realm and mitigating the impact of the buildings on neighbouring properties. The number of residential units decreased to 552 units (ie: 276 market, 276 affordable), while maintaining the 50:50 split between the two housing types on the same site. A significant redesign of the landscaping treatment of the principal area of public realm by Thomas Heatherwick Studio – which pays tribute to the site’s military heritage – formed a key part of the revised application. This better addressed the Council’s aspirations for public amenity and provided a cleaner integration with the contemporary language of the architecture, in particular the design of three new garden pavilions proposed for the northern side of the site.

A revised planning application was submitted to Westminster Council in 2009. The proposal received support from all key statutory bodies including CABE, English Heritage and the GLA, as well as the Royal Hospital. The officers’ report published in mid-June 2009 was also very supportive of the revised scheme. However, the application was withdrawn by the client a few days before it was due to be considered by the Council’s Planning Committee due to the controversial intervention of Prince Charles who was believed to be unhappy with the proposal.

The graded, coloured façades are stepped back from Chelsea Bridge Road by 12 metres and give a clear and distinctive definition to each of the residential buildings and the hotel. 

The proposal has a highly developed energy strategy incorporating a number of advanced, passive energy techniques within the building facades as well as other energy efficiency measures in the building services. These seek to reduce the carbon footprint of the buildings by around 36 per cent compared with a more conventional development, as well as including other design features to reduce solar gain.