Central Somers Town

Despite its central location, Somers Town remains one of the most disadvantaged parts of Camden. Sandwiched between Euston and St Pancras stations, it houses approximately 5,000 residents, 70% of which live in socially rented homes. It is also one of the few substantial areas of publicly owned land in Central London.

The London Borough of Camden approached DSDHA to act as masterplanners, landscape architects and spatial strategists, working collaboratively with four other design teams, residents and stakeholders, to facilitate landscape-led rejuvenation of the area in a manner that responds directly to the needs of Somers Town. With Camden, we explored innovative models of delivering homes and public amenities through Camden’s Community Investment Programme (CIP) – a self-funding development framework. 

Understanding residents’ needs
In an area characterised by change, the prospect of further change in the area was an understandably challenging process for many in the community who had been shaken by previous, large-scale developments. An extensive and in-depth engagement process was necessary in order to establish a meaningful dialogue with the residents, and to understand their priorities for investment. Using grounded research, we sought to understand local concerns such as air quality, gentrification, and anti-social behaviour.

This informed our collective decision-making process, resulting in a scheme that improves the area’s social amenities, accessibility, and connectivity. We were able to identify positive local characteristics to help form the basis of a truly local masterplan.

A landscape-led project
DSDHA did not approach the masterplan – or urban framework as it might be better referred – in a traditional, linear way. Landscape and public realm were used as the primary drivers around which housing and amenities were designed. Through a collaborative and iterative approach where we developed a sophisticated dialogue with each design team, we were able to provide Somers Town with creative solutions while achieving no net loss of publicly accessible green space.

The commission comprises a new primary school, community facilities, both social and private homes, as well as a world-class public park.

A dynamic collaboration
Camden employed five design teams with DSDHA as the masterplanners and landscape architects, Adam Khan Architects designing the new community facilities and 10 social rented homes, Hayhurst and Co. designing a new primary school, dRMM the private residential tower and enabling development, and Duggan Morris Architects (now as Morris + Company) for the social housing blocks.  

Rather than developing a set of masterplanning principles in advance, DSDHA worked concurrently and in collaboration with the other architectural practices. This unique approach allowed the whole team to resolve technical and conceptual issues iteratively on both a micro and macro scale, sometimes resulting in radically different outcomes from what one would expect in a traditional process.

Masterplanner & Urban Designer: DSDHA 
Landscape Architect: Todd Longstaffe-Gowan 
Civil Engineer: AKT II 
Sustainability: Atelier Ten 
Cost Consultant: Currie & Brown 
Project Manager: Capital  
Planning Consultant: Turley 
Lighting Consultant: Studio Dekka 
Transport Consultant: Civic 
Contractor (School & Community Play Facility): Neilcott Construction Ltd
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