Central Somers Town Masterplan

Caught between the railway tracks of Euston and St. Pancras stations, Somers Town is one of only a few substantial areas of publicly-owned land in Central London. As such it presents a unique opportunity to explore innovative models to deliver much-needed homes and public amenity for a neighbourhood with many needs. 

The single ownership of the buildings, and also the public realm around them, allowed the London Borough of Camden to develop an ambitious place-making strategy using a self-funding development framework to enable delivery. The commission comprises a new primary school, community facilities, affordable homes and a world-class public park —worthy of the site’s significance — as well as a proportion of private housing. 

Led by DSDHA, the Masterplan was devised via an innovative collaborative process, using landscape and public realm as the primary drivers around which housing was designed — in opposition to the prevailing trend towards maximising build yields at all costs. Rather than developing massing criteria to guide the development of each plot, DSDHA curated a sophisticated dialogue between the practitioners involved, thus allowing creativity to flourish to promote a rich mix of architecture and landscape that mediate seamlessly between the scale of intimacy and infrastructure.
Central Somers Town is a three-hectare-plus plot of publicly-owned land behind the British Library. Despite its central location, Central Somers Town is one of the most financially deprived neighbourhoods in London. This character is partially due to the cumbersome presence of infrastructure. To the West it is scarred by Euston's tracks; to the East it is hemmed by St Pancras' trail, with its constant flow and the station's monolithic listed elevation; to the South is bound by the traffic of Euston Road. The lack of permeability turned Somers Town into a cul-de-sac, impacting its socio-economic demographics. Our project seeks to rebalance the landscape in favour of the inhabitants, creating a more porous, safe and playful environment, while making space for 136 new homes as well as education and community facilities. The first step, in conversation with London Borough of Camden (LBC), was to challenge the existing feasibility scheme. Instead of the scattered green spaces advised by the brief, we proposed a unified large park for play and exercise, with educational, community and residential buildings defining its porous edge and opening up new routes across the site. Explain how your entry meets the category-specific criteria: In the face of a deep housing crisis (made more acute by the advent of HS2, the plans of which have displaced hundreds of homes in Camden) and reduced government funding (particularly for school facilities), LBC had to be bold and innovative in making the best use of its buildings and land in Central Somers Town to provide much needed investment in the area. The single ownership of the buildings and the public realm around them, allowed LBC to develop an ambitious place-making strategy using a self-funding development framework to enable delivery. Acting as a developer, LBC commissioned a self-funding scheme that uses private housing (92 units) to subsidise the delivery of a primary school; a nursery; a community hall; 44 new socially rented homes; and a new community focused central public park and public realm that are worthy of the site's significance within Central London. Designed to offer a new kinetic experience for visitors, locals and particularly for the children growing up here, the project aims to increase movement and improve the journeys through the site, rather than just providing a series of buildings and associated functions. Led by DSDHA, the Masterplan was devised via an innovative collaborative process, using landscape and public realm as the primary drivers around which the housing was designed. DSDHA developed the landscaping proposal and established the urban design principles for the scheme. Simultaneously extensive community engagement took place and DSDHA guided a team of four other architectural practices involved in the of design the site's individual buildings: Hayhurst & Co was working on the Edith Neville Primary school and Children's Centre; Duggan Morris designed new private and affordable housing; Adam Khan Architects the community play facility and St Aloysius Nursery with affordable housing above; dRMM designed Brill Place tower for private housing. 


Team: 
Architect: 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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