Mapleton Crescent emerges, bold as brass and 27 storeys high, from an unpromising wedge of land in Wandsworth, south London. The site – long neglected – is flanked by an electricity substation, the River Wandle and a road, and contains a second, unmoveable, substation. Architect Metropolitan Workshop and affordable housing developer Pocket Living set out to challenge preconceptions by demonstrating that the efficiencies of modular offsite construction could make such ‘undevelopable’ sites viable.
The £23m tower provides 89 homes, 53 of which were discounted by 20 per cent against the local market, and earmarked for first-time buyers living or working in the borough. With its saw-tooth design, colourful cladding, frameless glass and canopies, the building’s robust character transforms the streetscape and creates a local landmark.
The scheme arranges three river-facing homes and two south-facing homes per floor around a triangular core with naturally lit and ventilated corridors on all three sides. The side to the road contains lifts and rises above the other 25- and 27-storey elements. The triangular staircase connects the entire core up to a roof light at the peak.
Above the ground floor and communal entrance, a structural platform was created surrounding the stair core. All of the modular units for the apartments, which incorporate their own structure, were craned onto this platform. The core was finished in six weeks, and the modular units installed in eight weeks. The construction cost was approximately £3000 per square metre.
Mapleton Crescent was designed to achieve high standards in terms of both economic and environmental sustainability. The modular system reduced factory waste by 90 per cent and enabled the site to be developed at least four months faster than using more traditional methods.
The ‘Pocket homes’ (not ‘micro-flats’, the developer insists) are finished to a high specification and feature open-plan kitchen-living rooms, separate double bedrooms and a wet room. Storage is integrated throughout. Floor-to-ceiling windows maximise daylight and views across the city. Communal spaces, open to all residents, include a roof terrace on the 23rd floor, a dual-aspect residents’ lounge and a bike store.
The folded cladding of turquoise terracotta provides a sense of depth and texture to the facades. The architect collaborated with ceramicist Loraine Rutt on the cladding, which reflects changing daylight conditions and responds to the river. The striking colour and angular forms are intended to engage residents and passers-by, helping to enliven what was a forgotten street.