Farrells appointed to deliver the first pilot National Model Design Code (NMDC) in London



This summer we were appointed to prepare the first pilot National Model Design Code (NMDC) in London. Southwark Council appointed us, Gbolade Design Studio and Exterior Architecture as a team of multi-disciplinary consultants to prepare a design code for the area around Hatcham and Ilderton Road on Old Kent Road, Southwark.

The overarching six-month project has enlisted a total of 14 councils in England, chosen by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), to apply the NMDC in their area, with the aim to test the use of design codes in helping deliver sustainable and well-designed developments.

Working with the team, as well as Momentum Transport Consultancy and Savills who will provide specialist advice, we will produce a guide for the future development of a number of mixed use, residential and industrial schemes that deliver on the principles outlined in the Draft Old Kent Road Area Action Plan and the NMDC, such as ensuring that schemes are locally-led and fit in with local character, through placing more emphasis on community engagement and design elements such as street character, building type and façade, as well as the design fit out and specification of industrial space.

This guide will also address points raised during a recent consultation to provide greater clarity on the design and scale of ground floor frontages, reconcile the mix of industrial and residential uses and establish an approach to creating character in the landscape and public open space.

Our team will explore how the NMDC can be applied within an urban context, presenting an opportunity to set a new standard and establish a greater role for local character in the development of new schemes located in the city, that are representative of diversity, richness and individuality of different neighbourhoods. Whilst defining “beauty” is a tough challenge in a gritty industrial area of the city, we are really excited about the Victorian and 1950’s industrial heritage of Hatcham estate. Building on the traces of the past, our codes seek to guide future development towards a clear, appropriate sense of character and architectural identity.

A key aspect involved in this is ensuring that local residents are able to contribute to what the developments in their area will look like and as part of the process. These started in September and the first exhibition was held on site in the quirky, Penarth Centre. We built a large, 1:500 scale model of the neighbourhood to show the scale and massing of what will be built in future which was the centrepiece and main attraction of the event. We find the best way to communicate a masterplan is creating a clear, easy to understand visual and this was key to successfully describing the codes to visitors. We deliberately avoided using abstract architectural plans to avoid confusion and create a more interactive event.

The scheme will also provide an additional level of design guidance for the Old Kent Road Area Action Plan and is intended to be read as part of that plan helping to secure its delivery.

Further workshops in the local area will be underway in the coming months and will continue to play a crucial role in the NMDC process, not just in London, but in the other councils cross England. This, we believe is crucial to the success of creating locally-led character schemes of the future.

Written by Vaughn Horsman (Design Director Farrells London)