Axwell Park was one of the housing projects that were proposed to visit and make their respective assessment in accordance with the guidelines of Building for Life 12.
This development has two special characteristics. The first is its location in the suburban area of Gateshead, surrounded by abundant vegetation and close to several bodies of water. The second is its proximity to Axwell Hall, a historic building built in 1758 for Sir Thomas Clavering, the Seventh Baronet of Axwell and which is considered one of the most relevant examples of Palladian architecture in the North East of England.
Integrating into the neighbourhood
- Connections: ● Although the project is well connected with the small settlement that surrounds it, there is only one road (A694) that links Axwell Park with the rest of West Gateshead.
- Facilities and services: ● The lack of facilities in the site or in a walkable distance makes the development highly dependent on other services in Gateshead. The closest shopping mall, Metrocentre, it is located 10 minutes by car.
- Public transport: ● The closest bus stop is located 6 minutes by walk from the site. Most of the buses have routes to Metrocentre, Gateshead interchange and Newcastle (Eldon Square station).
- Meeting local housing requirements: ● the development offers different types of 3-bedroom Townhouses (two and three storeys) and two-bedroom apartments, with 27 units in total. The project does not offer affordable housing.
Creating a place
- Character: ● The development is strongly inspired by Palladian architecture, which is the same style of Axwell Hall, using a similar palette of colours and ornaments. However, and despite its good intentions, the final result could be considered as a ‘pastiche’ of old and contemporary styles.
- Working with the site and its context: ● Axwell Park preserves the scale of the existing buildings around the site. The main entrance to the courtyard allows views of the natural surroundings, as well as it frames the view to the Hall building.
- Creating well-defined streets and spaces: ● The frontages of the building help to make more enclosed the appearance of the streets. All the facades have windows to look the streets, although the entrances to the houses are located inside the courtyard.
- Easy to find your way around: ● The well-defined form of the courtyard, in addition to its location just in front of the landmark building of Axwell Hall, make very easy to find your way around the site.
Street and home
- Streets for all: ● Due to its size and design, the development does not provide internal streets, apart from the access for parking. The roads around the site has a speed limit of 10 mph, which is safe for pedestrians.
- Car parking: ● Although there is enough parking for residents (27) and visitors, the number of lots inside the courtyard exceeds the amount recommended by BFL12 (no more than 5), making the cars dominant elements in the place.
- Public and private spaces: ● There are no clear boundaries between the semi-public courtyard and the houses’ frontages. Some owners use planting as a perceptual limit.
- External storage and amenity space: ● Bins are arranged and classified in one place hidden from public view. There are also other spaces for storage and bike parking.
Summary of the assessment:
Although BFL 12 is in general terms a very useful tool, in this case some guidelines were not entirely applicable due to the suburban nature of the project, where the low density of the area is not enough to support a more complete public transport system. On the other hand, the issue of the character could be understood in a subjective and aesthetic way, which is something to consider with more attention especially in areas of conservation or historic heritage.
Finally, it would be good that BFL 12 provide a greater emphasis on sustainability and environmental impact, evaluating strategies to reduce the carbon footprint or the management of water and energy resources.
Axwell Park website. (http://www.axwellpark.co.uk)
Design council. Building for Life 12. (https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/resources/guide/building-life-12-third-edition)
Gateshead Council. Conservation Area Character Statements, Strategies and Policy Guidelines. (https://www.gateshead.gov.uk/DocumentLibrary/Building/PlanningPolicy/IPA/IPA17-ConservationAreaCharacterStatements.pdf)