Abell & Cleland

Abell & Cleland are two handsome stone-fronted blocks that face each other across opposite sides of John Islip Street, close to Tate Britain in Westminster. The biggest, Abell, contains 141 private homes while Cleland houses 118 homes, around two-thirds of which are affordable. All the apartments are arranged around generous landscaped courtyards and glazed lobbies, which offer uplifting views into the gardens beyond and animate a previously unremarkable street. 

The scheme replaces two formidable 1930s ministerial buildings and mediates between the monumental scale of modernist blocks by Lutyens and Ward and the tight historic urban grain of Horseferry Road to the north, while the curved forms of Cleland’s facade echo the Baroque architecture of St John’s on Smith Square. 

The articulate massing of Abell & Cleland successfully negotiated a number of complex constraints determined by the site’s historic setting; the challenging rights of light/sunlight envelopes determined by the neighbouring buildings; and by its proximity to security-sensitive MI5. 

Moreover, with its exceptional density score of 319 dwellings per hectare, Abell & Cleland provides a model for the sustainable densification of the city. In terms of site usage, the scheme is 2.1 times more dense than Erno Goldfinger’s seminal Trellick Tower, built in north Kensington in 1972. Furthermore, were Trellick Tower to achieve the same level of density as Abell and Cleland, it would need to be 66 storeys high, well over twice its current height. 

Amenity space such as gardens and communal areas are often thought to be one of the elements sacrificed to deliver high density, but here, by cleverly deploying the courtyard model in conjunction with the gardens and generous lobbies, we successfully balanced density with beauty and delight, delivering a substantial number of double-aspect flats and avoiding oppressive perimeter walls. All the elements that modernist slab housing usually failed to achieve. The exoskeleton that encases the buildings also allowed the insertion of terraces and balconies between the two skins of the facade, extending the pattern of private and shared amenity vertically as well as horizontally.

Architect: DSDHA
Urban Strategy: DSDHA
Interior Design: Project Orange 
Landscape Architect: Wirtz International
Structural Engineer: Manhire Associates
M&E Engineer: VRS Scott Wilson
Planning Consultant: Gerald Eve
Townscape Consultant: Peter Stewart Consultancy
Enabling Architect: EPR Architects
Production Landscape Architect: Spacehub Design
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