The site became available after Southwold’s local brewery, Adnams, moved their distribution depot from the centre of town to an out of town site, and their 0.4 hectare warehouse site in Victoria Street became available for redevelopment. Ash Sakula were chosen as architects following an invited design competition.
The site is in a conservation area and is adjacent to a number of listed buildings, including the town’s grade 1 listed St Edmund’s Church. The site is brownfield, having previously been Adnams’ distribution depot and, prior to that, a beds and bedding factory.
Our client was interested in developing this prominent, town centre site in a contemporary and mould-breaking way, and the site abuts a large number of residential properties, some listed, so we recognized that any proposal was likely to be of intense local public interest. We and our client consulted widely in the locality prior to submitting a planning application. Consultees included representatives of the local planning authority, Waveney District Council, Southwold Town Council, Southwold& District Chamber of Trade, and neighbouring owners. In general, there was wide approval for the replacement of an inappropriately located industrial facility with some thoughtfully planned housing and other facilities, and in the event the scheme passed successfully through the planning process without objection.
We looked very closely at this unspoilt seaside town, where there has been very little post-war development of any kind. Our aim has been to create a mix of public and private spaces and buildings that responds to the specific texture of Southwold, with its combination of narrow courtyards, wide views, private gardens, unexpected details and corners and interesting juxtapositions of large and small, old and new.
The front of the site immediately off the High Street is occupied by Adnams’ Wine and Kitchen store and café around a new market square, also by Ash Sakula. Immediately behind this a new road and footpaths run through the site making new connections in the town. To either side of the road are groupings of thirty four houses and flats, all different. Twenty four are for sale, and ten are affordable homes, eight for rent and two for shared ownership, pepper-potted around the site. All these houses are two, two-and-a-half or three storey, while in the centre of the site are two taller residential buildings containing six apartments and a small shop.
The houses on the west side of the new street are a cluster of village-like houses, with unexpected open spaces in between. Private gardens are provided alternating in front and at the back of the houses. Car parking is provided either on plot, in private garages or in shared, covered spaces.
On the other side of the street, the houses form informal terraces, again with private gardens and a mix of on- and off-plot parking. Five 3-storey houses on the northern boundary form a terrace along Tibby’s Green. These houses have south facing private gardens with car parking on plot.
The form and materials of the proposals have been carefully chosen to reflect the scale and quality of precursors in and around Southwold, while giving a fresh and contemporary edge to the scheme. A buff brick is used, and some facades are painted in white and other colours, including occasional use of the local maritime tradition of black tarred brickwork to walls facing the prevailing wind. Windows are bespoke timber. Roofs are pantiled, while flat roofs are sedum covered.
All houses are fitted with MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) enabling low energy costs combined with high comfort conditions. Refuse storage and recycling is in shared collection points around the site. All houses have cycle storage, and there are public cycle hoops.
Landscaping is informal. In the new market square we have embedded into the road surface timbers recycled from the groynes dividing Southwold’s beaches. Much of the new landscape is in the form of private gardens which nevertheless have a strongly public role. Southwold is characterised by small but generous front gardens spilling out into the public realm, with their owners taking great pride in their maintenance and presentation. The scheme builds on this tradition with prominent front gardens and low garden walls of flint or brick.
Planning permission was granted in March 2007. Construction began in 2008 and was completed early in 2011.
Tibby’s Triangle won a Housing Design Award Project Award in 2008 and a Housing Design Award Completed Award in 2012.