How much thought do you think goes into the buildings around you? Have you ever contemplated the amount of consideration it might have taken to decide on the materials, the colour, the design itself? I’m guessing it’s not always the first thought that springs to mind when gazing at the various landscapes of the world, especially in London where the skyline is a vortex of old and new, the grey and the grand.
I’ll admit that working in the design industry, in close proximity to architects and property developers, I’ve become accustomed to thinking that new builds primarily equal money, with not much thought to the social impact on the people living in them, or the value to the people looking at them. When urban property developers Pocket Living invited me to a supper club to learn a little more about their latest project, Mapleton Crescent, I was intrigued to find out more.
Firstly, the said new build is on my doorstep (I have seen it going up over the last few months on my way to the gym) and secondly, for all the above pre-conceptions about how these modern builds are brought about. Exploring the influence of colour in design, learning how colour influences architecture and discovering how art and architectural worlds can collaborate were all on the agenda. How could I resist? There was also the promise of some insight into the process behind Mapleton Crescent’s one-of-a-kind green glazed tiles and as a colour lover that was something I just COULD NOT miss out on. But just how did this colourful take come about? What were the deciding factors to create the perfect shade of green?
The Surrounding Landscape
Mapleton Crescent SW18 sits right on the River Wandle in Wandsworth, next to the South Side shopping centre if you know the area. The plot was initially a rather small, triangular-shaped area – the perfect shape for some innovative thinking. With not many high-rise buildings in the neighbouring area, it was important to bring a building that brought its own beauty to the skyline and stood the test of time. Innovative award-winning architects Metropolitan Workshop were brought on board to develop the site and make it a welcome addition to Wandsworth.
So what did they think initially? The geographical contiguity to the river brought about immediate colour connotations for the team. Aquatic shades of blues, greens and greys; the possibility of reflection and change depending on environmental factors. For Metropolitan Workshop, the perfect shade of green was elusive, it had to be vibrant, have depth and be striking without being shocking.
The Colour Experts
Let’s face it, we talk about colour trends a lot. ‘Colour of the Year’ has become a thing for many companies and sometimes the meaning behind it is slightly lost. Pantone is not one of those companies and whether you love or hate their verdict, there’s always a deeper social meaning to their selection. 2017 was all about ‘Greenery’ – the vivid shade of green that reflected botanical new beginnings and celebrated rejuvenation, renovation and revitalisation. It’s a concept that is easily brought into the architecture world with the deeper meanings of the shade bringing about a thoughtful consideration into improving quality of life. Confirmation that Metropolitan Workshop was on the right track and in line with Pocket Living’s mission with their search for the perfect hue.
“It’s not easy being green”
~ Kermit the frog
Abigail Bruce, Marketing Director at Pantone was on hand at the supper club to talk us through the meaning of green. As a generation, we’re looking for focus; we’re surrounded by consumerism and plenty of us are seeking to cut through this clutter and calm down our busy lives by treating ourselves and our homes better. Quality of life is important to us and the use of green is both innovative and imaginative, referencing nature, spa-like settings and the possibilities of being active and invigorated. The application doesn’t need to be as bold and vivid as Greenery itself, but a nod to the hue would almost certainly bring about the right subconscious reactions. As Pocket Living’s Lucian Smithers pointed out, millennials are largely favouring experience over material possession and this needed to be reflected within Mapleton Crescent’s design, inside and out.
The need to be different
Leading the development project at Metropolitan Workshop was Neil Deely, who wanted to connect the building to its surrounding area and community. With the marine shades having already been drawn from the River Wandle, Neil and his team felt that the scheme and location demanded a fresh approach in regards to material and texture to match and heighten the desired green shade.
The material needed to be durable, beautiful, reflective, low maintenance and most importantly, DIFFERENT. Taking inspiration from London’s beautiful tube stations, it was decided that colourful ceramics were the way forward with a contemporary take on ‘faience’ – a glazed architectural terracotta that has been used in construction (and tube stations) for centuries. Most manufactured materials fade over time but with faience, the colours remain vibrant and require minimal maintenance to stand the test of time.
Nevertheless, the material selected, this choice also brought about more colour concerns for the Mapleton Crescent team. Colours that work on smaller objects rarely work on a large scale and the mission was on to find a scalable tint. Metropolitan Workshop trialled many different greens with the faience manufacturer, but none shone quite right resulting in the need for a collaboration between architectural design and art.
The Collision of Art and Architecture
Raw materials, modern craft and hand-crafted are all buzzwords for the design industry this year, but it’s not been something I’ve previously seen in the creation of a building. In the last step to combine colour and craft in Mapleton Crescent’s design, Metropolitan Workshop commissioned Loraine Rutt, a fine art ceramicist, to consult on the finding that precious final colour. Interestingly Loraine has her own history within the area, with six generations living alongside the main inspiration for the project, the River Wandle.
The final brief set out was a glaze that had a two-tone quality, a silvery, blue-green with depth – like a suspended column of water. Loraine set to work as the glazing wizard, developing examples of glazes with metallic qualities to illustrate to the faience manufacturers.
“Glaze is more than colour, it is a quality of surface. The richness can come as much from the depth of the glazes as the depth of the colour.”
~ Loraine Rutt
When Loraine had her eureka moment, she immediately called Neil and a totally unique colour, only used for Mapleton Crescent SW18’s glazed tiles was born.
The Final Outcome
The final colouring is not dissimilar to Marrs Green – G.F Smith’s ‘World’s Favourite Colour‘ declaration in 2017. It’s a beautiful shade, that while definitely green in my eyes, could also be interpreted as blue. I love the way the colour changes with the weather and having passed it so many times, I can reliably say it’s looked different every time I’ve seen it. With versions of the shade even making its way into the apartments in the form of kitchen and bathroom tiling, you better like green if you’re thinking of moving in.
The Pocket Living mission is to help city makers make London their home. Their Pocket homes provide compact one bedroom affordable homes for young Londoners local to the development, whilst their larger two and three bedroom Pocket Edition homes are available to all.
A limited number of Pocket Edition homes are still available at Mapleton Crescent SW18! To find out more visit mapletoncrescentsw18.com or call 020 7291 3683 to arrange a visit to their newly launched show home.