Last Updated on July 27, 2021 by Kingston Society

‘Co-living’: the end of urban loneliness – or cynical corporate dormitories?

UPDATE 27/7/21

AMRO developers and architects HTA made a presentation to the Kingston Society which included further details of ‘The Rex’ their ‘co-living’ proposals for Greencoat House in Clarence Street (partially complete pdf here taken from screen shots: AMRO-The_Rex)

An unusually creative materials palette of terracotta tiles and metal grills and a somewhat Art -Deco stylistic approach impressed us although some details less so. Shown below the interface of the new block and Castle street displays an unsuccessful attempt to bridge the building styles  between old and new.

Shown below the studio style accommodation

Amro Developers is proposing a significant upgrade to the current Greencoat House building on Clarence Street to create 200+ ‘co-living’ studios and flats with work space and communal facilities. (Link here)

Amro says: ” The plans for this development are based on an environmentally friendly and sustainable upgrade of the building. The development (to be called The Rex) is located on Clarence Street and will provide around 200 co-living homes above a co-working space and a café on the ground floor.

The Rex will be one of Kingston’s most sustainable new development projects and will offer its residents a new concept for town centre living. It will transform the appearance of the old Greencoat House building and combine rented co-living homes above a public co-working space and a café on the ground floor. It will improve the area surrounding Kingston Station and enhance the approach to the town centre.

Our ambition is to provide a significant upgrade to the current Greencoat House building providing much needed homes in a town centre setting. The whole project will be sustainable and eco-friendly. The proposals will offer co-working space and a cafe on the ground floor with bright co-living homes, attractive communal facilities and landscaped terraces above.

The new building has been sensitively designed to be in keeping with its surroundings. The lowest side facing Kingston station will be 5 storeys high. The side facing Clarence Street will be 7 storeys high with the tallest 9 storey part set back towards the rear of the site. The frontage on Clarence street will be considerably improved, and together with a new café and paving will enhance the area surrounding the railway station.

The quality of life for residents in The Rex will be boosted by excellent communal facilities. There will be a roof garden on the first floor with herbaceous perennial planting providing natural play/sensory experiences for everyone. Benches and seating areas will provide opportunities for all age groups to socialise. Two further landscaped roof terraces with amazing views will be further elegant flexible spaces for residents. There will be communal lounges, a gym and yoga studio, co-working, a café, and premium lounges which can be booked for private events. “

We say: Unfortunately the low quality visual renders and scant information make it difficult to properly understand the proposals.

What, for example, is ‘co-living’? The Guardian asked in September 2019: ‘Co-living’: the end of urban loneliness – or cynical corporate dormitories? It quotes Hannah Wheatley, researcher on housing and land at the New Economics Foundation. “Co-living is purely a new way for developers to squeeze profit from an already broken housing market”

They say there will be ‘around 200 studios’ but also flats for families, singles and downsizers and affordable homes – but in what proportions? Are the studios intended for families? How many new residences in total?

Undoubtedly the sustainability ambitions are impressive but it seems to come at the cost of tedious and banal deign. The wish to improve the ‘gateway’ to Kingston (actually a developer cliche we have heard many times all over the borough!) will not be met with these unimaginative re-purposing design ideas. The existing building is truly horrible making it bigger is no way to improve it. Of course it could all be in the details…. but the developers haven’t provided those!

All in all so far this consultation fails for lack of clarity, lack of detail and lack of anything that is of architectural quality as opposed to mere expedient building with the bottom line in mind. Link for feedback here

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