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Darling Associates Iylo Interview

Some people call Croydon London's third skyline but for years there's been little development of it. Recently this has all changed and now one of the new generation of towers going up is Iylo designed by Darling Associates Architecture. Gareth Watkins of Darling Associates tells us more about the project.

Skyscrapernews.com - So to start with Gareth, how does this story to where we are work out right now?

Gareth Watkins - In terms of where we are and what we are doing, I'm not exactly sure how all this all fits together, I thought we would run through what we are doing in Croydon in terms of the town.

We have St James Iylo which is on site, going through in terms of skyscraper I don't think at 22 storeys it really fits into that category, but what it was and when we did it has opened up the Croydon cluster for further towers to be developed; we have become involved in another tower which is more inline with the sort of skyscraper tower, and in the process in doing this we have helped with the master planning of Croydon and some of the existing consents to show how those towers would relate in that cluster.

Iylo is of interest and that's the building we're working on... you have Croydon with all the government buildings with developments happened in rows and rows with the big old lumps and this road here...

Skyscrapernews.com - Yeah that's a main artery isn't it?

Gareth Watkins - As you approach from the north coming in it's a roundabout site coming through. So it's a gateway, we worked very closely with Croydon council in terms they grasped the idea of building an entrance gateway into Croydon and that's the principle we worked through; but that still took three years to actually get through planning.

Skyscrapernews.com - Yeah I remember reading about it years ago, its taken ages.

Gareth Watkins - The process was painful and took three years but we got there in the end. If you look back at it now they have a model of Croydon and really it looks quite dumpy; that tower should have really been twenty storeys taller.

Skyscrapernews.com - Yeah, yeah compared to other towers we see coming through now it's rather less ambitious. Do you feel you could have gone bigger?

Gareth Watkins - That should have been a forty storey tower because we have all these other consents which this having opened it up and there's a forty four tower just down the road, that should have been higher, but what it did is open up the Croydon cluster.

Skyscrapernews.com - Yeah can you tell us a bit more about that and how it's going.

Gareth Watkins - So we've got those where its been developed its on site. It's being built, cores are up, the central core is up to the tenth floor at the moment. It's just waiting for the floor slabs to catch up then it will leap up again. That's the exciting part from our point of view at the moment is its actually being built which is ...good!

Skyscrapernews.com - One of the things that's interesting to me now your onsite, surrounded by traffic on all sides that must be really noisy for people to live in so obviously you have to take all sorts of measures to mitigate this.

Gareth Watkins - In terms of the planning process there's different noise bands and categories buildings fall into dependant on where they are in proximity to the roads and type of roads. In terms of this one we have the railway line and we've also got three lanes of traffic on the Wellesley Road coming out going north, then there's two lanes of traffic round the it. In terms of the banding for acoustic criteria its one of the highest, or one of the worst depending on how you look at it.

Skyscrapernews.com - I assume you've got some pretty nifty cladding solutions at work?

Gareth Watkins - The process we had for the cladding the specification and acoustic criteria for the cladding was that much higher. We've got a Chinese based company, and they have taken onboard and performance specification and put together and shown that the system actually delivers the insulation that's required to meet the values for that site, so it's a noisy site but we put in compensatory measures to accommodate the fact it's a noisy site. Realistically by the time you get above the 4th floor that noise level does drop down quite a bit and the way we have it with the plinth running round the building there is 4 storeys of block and render and sort of heavy construction so its acknowledged and dealt with.

Skyscrapernews.com - Why did you shape it like that it's almost like a blade?

Gareth Watkins - We look at in terms of orientation of the site, to get maximum sunlight around the building but also in terms of where the road comes up so that the approach from Wellesley road comes straight up coming up to the sort of face of the building. It's coming up from behind and straight up to the building there if we look at it in those terms of that and also terms of the simple the geometry. I'll print off a site plan that is not in your pack of how the curves actually relate to each other in terms of the site.

Skyscrapernews.com - And then you have this podium curving around it...

Gareth Watkins - Its simple geometry then when it actually gets into the tower itself, the sort of oval with the centre core one stair with two lifts going through is actually efficient; you get eight units coming off one core before you actually start getting into the tower.

Skyscrapernews.com - But there's also this main entrance here and the approaches to it?

Gareth Watkins - So In terms of the approach you have the main entrance there ...so this building faces there so just in terms of the geometry the way that the arches and curves are moved around it took a fair bit of work but its very simple in its plan form and how it works.

Skyscrapernews.com - You tried to create some enclosed space there.

Gareth Watkins - Yes that's the main approach, got the dog-leg of the low-rise coming around, the original idea was that the first floor floors would actually be affordable accommodation. The planning consent that we got was linked with a section 106 which said that there would be 40% affordable provided within the scheme that could step down to 20% if that was the only deal we could do with the housing association or drop down to zero if we couldn't do any deal with the housing association at all.

Skyscrapernews.com - Moving on to the penthouses...

Gareth Watkins - Yeah, the view of the lobby area and the glass top knot on top of the building, which are these things up here, That's the living reception area, that's a typical apartment.

Skyscrapernews.com - How much will a penthouse cost? Millions by the looks of them.

Gareth Watkins - They haven't been released. Traditionally there's ten penthouses and they won't release until they get much further down the line which again is fairly traditional because the penthouses command the most money and they will tailor them to whatever market they can to get the most profit they can. So don't expect them to do too much with them for around 12 months.

Skyscrapernews.com - It's an interesting shape in apartment though.

Gareth Watkins - The platform and layout of the planned floors actually works out really well. The amount of space in terms of a two bedroom flat is actually more. The specification layout and finish of the actual apartments are slightly better than the market standard.

Skyscrapernews.com - Because a lot of developers are reluctant to use curves at all.

Gareth Watkins - If you take a typical floor plan you have the central core, very short corridors to feed into the apartments and then 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; 8 apartments! 8 apartments off that and they are all three bed apartments with good size lounge living area and balcony going round a 2 good sized bedrooms.

Skyscrapernews.com - What about the outdoor space for them and enclosed mini winter gardens?

Gareth Watkins - We've got winter gardens on the 17th floor and we've got winter gardens on the roof. So these have become winter gardens on the 17th floor that's glazed and that opens right back so you have that sort of internal/external space and when you get to the top penthouse the spiral comes up into a big glass top knot, so you have a winter garden there and also an external terrace there, they should be separated.

Skyscrapernews.com - Surely you have wind problems up there having experienced these myself on the top of tall buildings with hard-hats flying off?

Gareth Watkins - Yeah we had to wind tunnel BRE wind tunnel test all this just to make sure that if we put these things up there and you put a patio chair out there, its not going to fly off the roof and end up half way done the Wellesley road. Just to make sure.

Skyscrapernews.com - Which brings us on to affordable housing. What's the story behind getting them involved?

Gareth Watkins - We got a housing association on board and we went to the cascade level of providing 20% because that's all they could afford, then at the eleventh hour they pulled out and said their financing had changed and they couldn't fund the deal. So we went back to the council and the section 106 cascade was basically we put no affordable accommodation into the building but had to pay another million or something I cant remember the exact figure to the council, so that's what we did.

Skyscrapernews.com - Have they sold well?

Gareth Watkins - They have sold 50% off plan.

Skyscrapernews.com - In how long? It's was November 2007 it was released wasn't it?

Gareth Watkins - In terms of release they sold that 50% very quickly they have sold very little since because the people who buy off plan are investors or companies who invest in apartments, are quite happy to buy off plan and they accept that. The next level of people who are buying the apartments will live there and they generally want to see what they are getting before they buy them. So they have sold just over 50 that covers the scheme in terms of financial viability and they expect to now start selling the remainder of those probably in about 12 months time realistically but people will want to see what the building looks like before they purchase.

Skyscrapernews.com - I wonder how long things will start selling with the property market crisis blah blah blah... and things getting worse.

Gareth Watkins - Well the thing is it's not actually going to be complete until march 2010.

Skyscrapernews.com - So you have plenty of time, fingers crossed.

Gareth Watkins - There's another year of the market doing whatever the markets going to do before we actually finish the building by that time and it might be great but it might be even worse.
IYLO, Croydon
IYLO, Croydon