Breaking new ground - Issue 113 - Magazine | Monocle

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Reinventing the look and feel of Main Street USA is no simple task but it’s time for developers to stop erecting land-locked New England fishing villages and think of more modern expressions of low-rise retail, residential and office space. While it’s an easy sell to pitch a comfortable vernacular to retailers and potential apartment-dwellers, it’s also not particularly challenging and does little to advance modern architecture in the US. In the hands of the right firm, a developer can still have high density and create cosiness without having to retreat down avenues of colonial Americana. Who would we commission for the task? Brisbane firm Richards & Spence could take its Queensland know-how and do an excellent job refashioning the urban, or even suburban, village.



Fish Island Village


In the years since the London Olympics in 2012, east London has become a case study for how to approach urban regeneration. However, one of the key issues that always accompanies rejuvenation is what happens to the artists and studio spaces that are forced out as apartment prices begin to climb. Fish Island Village, which is a new property in the Hackney Wick area, provides a fresh answer to some of those questions.

A collaboration between housing association Peabody and shared-workspace specialist The Trampery, the development combines 580 homes (including social housing) with a dedicated campus for small, independent fashion labels. “Fashion is one of the biggest opportunities for London’s economy,” says The Trampery’s founder, Charles Armstrong. “It is worth £1.4bn [€1.6bn], employs 36,000 people and grew by 57 per cent in the five years to 2015. But one of the big problems is that even the most successful labels can’t afford studio space inside central London.”

Fish Island Village will aim to tackle this by providing 2,600 sq m of studios and additional spaces dedicated to sampling and fabrication. “We’ve taken the incubator model from tech and applied it to fashion,” says Armstrong. The mixed-use properties are being constructed on a site that was previously the warehouse of a brewery but one that had been sitting empty for two decades (aside from playing host to the occasional rave). Yet, from September, the area will begin to be revived by some 500 entrepreneurs and the next wave of London fashion talent.



Palisades Village

Los Angeles

Los Angeles may not seem in need of another shopping destination but try telling that to developer Rick Caruso. Over the years the man behind The Grove and the Americana brand in LA has proved himself a shrewd reader of the market. So it’s perhaps no surprise that another retail development is currently keeping him busy. Slated to open this summer, Palisades Village is a new shopping destination and gathering point for the residents of Pacific Palisades, a wealthy beach community on the northwestern fringes of the city.

Caruso razed the tired-looking mid-century downtown shopping area to make way for a reimagined precinct, which nonetheless retains some of its 1950s charm (in particular the signage outside the cinema). The project covers 11,500 sq m and includes more than 50 restaurants and shops. It’s hoped this new walkable precinct in the centre of town, at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Swarthmore Avenue, will breathe new life into the community and strengthen its small-town atmosphere.



The Mills

Hong Kong

Over the past four years Hong Kong property developer Nan Fung has been restoring three of its old textile mills in Tsuen Wan, an old industrial district in the New Territories. The Mills, as the development will be called, opens later in 2018 and will house a business incubator called Fabrica that will nurture wearable technology start-ups. Fashion entrepreneurs will have access to an in-house venture-capital fund, a catwalk and shopfront for commercial products, and a heritage centre.

The Mills is the brainchild of Vanessa Cheung, granddaughter of Nan Fung’s founder, who convinced her family to breathe new life into the neighbourhood. The building’s concrete façade will be largely unchanged but a new atrium inside will shed more light on the factory’s yarn-spinning heyday. It’s also likely to encourage interest in Tseun Wan from other business sectors: the district has high average incomes, a large stock of underused industrial buildings and direct public transport links to the city centre.



Îlot Fertile


By 2022 the former site of Paris’s La Villette gasworks will become the city’s first zero-carbon district. Developer Linkcity has enlisted architecture firm tvk to create a network of studios, housing units for young workers and family apartments, alongside a park, hotel, sports centre and start-up incubator dedicated to environmental innovation.

Built from low-carbon concrete with a stone façade, the complex will run on a “smartgrid” that will use renewables such as grey wastewater to heat the offices. Named Îlot Fertile, it will feature planted rooftops, lawns and vegetable gardens and is part of a city-led scheme to develop difficult locations in Paris, from old electricity substations to plots that were abandoned after the creation of the périphérique. The development will transform and reintegrate a slice of Paris’s 19th arrondissement that is currently an inaccessible island encircled by railway tracks. “This project deals with the reconquest of the natural landscape of the Parisian green belt,” says Océane Ragoucy of tvk.



Elektrownia Powisle


London’s Battersea Power Station might be one of Europe’s biggest redevelopment projects but Warsaw has its own version to match. In the popular riverside district of Powisle, Elektrownia Powisle is a mixed-use development set to open in spring 2019 in a restored power station dating back to 1904. After years of neglect the site will come alive with cafés, shops, apartments, office buildings and a boutique hotel. The former machine room will house an international food hall.

The project reflects the popularity of similar venues that have sprung up in post-industrial buildings in Warsaw in recent years, such as Hala Koszyki, a former market hall where dining options range from Polish pierogi to sushi. “Leisure is what drives shopping destinations these days. The old model of department store or supermarket-anchored shopping malls is disappearing,” says a representative of White Star Real Estate, the company carrying out the investment alongside London-based Tristan Capital Partners.

Tucked between the city centre and the river Vistula, and near a metro station, Elektrownia Powisle will cater to professionals and young families. The Copernicus Science Centre and the Chopin Museum are nearby, and it is hoped the project will likewise draw visitors from further afield.;

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