SOM founded in 1936 by Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings, has created distinctive modern imagery for corporate headquarters and urban areas, all exhibiting the firm’s team approach to architectural design.
Although SOM’s aesthetic legacy is diverse, its former structural engineer Fazlur Khan stated that its unifying theme is: “Technology is our art form.” SOM combines structural support, technical services, sculptural form and spatial sequence to anticipate change in the way we live, work and communicate and have brought lasting values to communities worldwide.
Project: The Stratford
Location: East London, United Kingdom
Project completion: 2019
Sky gardens for interaction with nature and communal space. ©Hufton + Crow
Founded on the idea of a “Vertical Community”, the 42-story building has created an exciting social environment in high-rise living. Located in Stratford and overlooking the former 2012 summer Olympic park, it is planned to spur the continued transformation of one of London’s up-coming neighbourhoods. Stratford is one of the capital’s most dynamic and well-connected new metropolitan centres. Its unique transport interchanges and world-class leisure facilities put Stratford at the centre of this new cultural urbanite. The 143m tall tower hosts many uses, including; apartments, a five-star hotel, three sky gardens, two destination restaurants, boutique stores, and event studios to cater to a new model for urban living.
“My aim was to redefine high rise”- Harry Handelsman (Manhattan Loft Corporation Founder and CEO).
The proposal aimed to create a vertical community that promotes social interaction and reflects the area’s diversity. This is done by combining various spaces and allowing different types of guests to interact and mingle. Upon entering the building, the architectural experience on the ground floor pivots around a triple-height lobby providing a sophisticated and dramatic community space. The space is sparked with art installations that draw in guests, for example, Paul Cocksedge’s ‘paper caught in the wind’ piece that creates a dramatic lighting effect for the reception desk and Petroc Sesti’s ‘optic sphere’ in the building courtyard that reflects the light and architecture around it
SOM designed the tower to have a double cantilevered design that allows for three sky gardens to overlook the spectacular views of the London skyline. This uniquely engineered concrete and steel frame are curved at levels 7,25, and 36 to create impressive communal spaces that would provide a natural platform for interaction. Each garden is adorned with a unique character, guiding movement within the space and serving different function from quiet seating to barbeque parties. To open up expansive views at each of the sky gardens, half of the perimeter columns are removed, and so the next task was to find a way of balancing this staggered building profile.
The first proposal was a system of heavy steel trusses to transfer the load from the perimeter to the building core. Although it was the strongest and lightest structural solution, it would have been expensive to implement, especially in terms of time. The team settled on a hybrid solution that combined a structural steel truss that rings the perimeter of the level above each sky garden while post-tensioned concrete connects the truss back to the concrete building core. In turn, these trusses support exterior structural steel columns and floor framing for the residential floors above while creating the ceiling plane for multistory sky gardens below.
SOM took advantage of the exposed structural framework to create distinctive living spaces that reveal the honesty of materials and construction technique to let occupants appreciate the structural integrity of the building with exposed steel members and concrete floors and walls.
Occupying the first seven stories of the building are the 150 hotel rooms designed by Space Copenhagen. The spacious guest rooms are a modern, relaxed and minimal design that allows guests to feel at home. The rooms are designed with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing substantial daylight. Natural woods in different hues, warm metals and softly curved upholstered shapes complement each other.
The bathrooms are stone-clad, allowing for natural materials to provide a serene ambience. Space Copenhagen exclusively designed all the bespoke furniture and interior elements for The Stratford. It also took the liberty of including its key furniture pieces like the Gubi, Stellar Works and Benchmark.
Space Copenhagen has created the interior design concept for the building’s lobby, hotel guestrooms, mezzanine, the ground floor, and the 7th-floor restaurant, Allegra. The public areas each have distinctive design characteristics but overall seek to interweave, allowing visitors to move seamlessly between the spaces.
For the residential units, the brief centred on people and how they interact in the variety of living spaces found in London’s neighbourhoods with the intent of creating homes that are not only generous in area but volume. The 248 residences are a combination of overnight hotel rooms, spacious loft-style apartments, duplex townhouses, studios, split level apartments and three-bedroom penthouse providing a total of 13 different apartment types.
The building façade design allows for minimal solar heat gain while bringing natural light by combining opaque and transparent materials. SOM designed the tower, took on high usage of recycled concrete and steel and, through limiting the amount of construction material, helped minimise the environmental impact.
Other sustainable strategies include; reduced water consumption, surface water run-off control, rainwater collection for irrigation, advanced lighting controls, and photovoltaics. Stratford has received high marks in sustainability with BREEAM Very Good Certification and Sustainable Homes level 4 certification.
The project’s overall design and function seek to build a social engine within the London horizon.