More about Beecholme

Beecholme is also the first postwar "mixed development" housing scheme in Hackney, with a mixture of houses and flats with the taller block having five storeys and containing one-bedroom and bedsit accommodation. It is featured in Volume 15 of Hackney History and was the site of Beecholme House, the family home of Maj. John André (d. 1780), who was executed as a British spy in the American War of Independence.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

checklist for repairs & additions to buildings - inside and out

BTW, the music in the background is from SOFT MACHINE's seventh album made in 1973

The Design Protocols, purchasing guide and "Gold Standard" shown in the presentation are on a downloadable A4 sheet a little further down
 (just past my diatribe).

It's been some time since I said anything about matching repairs and new additions to the surrounding architecture and it needs to be said again.
Hackney Homes have made big improvements here and there, but it's by no means universal and it's hardly just H. Homes.

I still see horrendous new additions and miss-matched repairs all over Hackney perpetrated by sub-contractors who have had too little in the way of detailed specifications to go on and too little supervision.

Here is the perfect example of how it should be done.
As was done by Hackney Homes at Beecholme.
The estate has both older loop-top and new standard railings, however, the low wall that needed railings added was adjacent to loop-top. At the other side of the block there is the new standard railings and the low wall pictured was going to get that instead of the adjacent.
Luckily senior officer Gary Lane was present and agreed with me. The sub-contractors then managed to match the height as well as style pretty well - given the exact specifications by Gary.

The angle of the shot makes it look a different height but it isn't
That's just an optical illusion.

Well done Hackney Homes!

Mind you, that's not always the case. I've even seen an estate frontage (last year) that had 1/2 inch round steel railings one side of the central entrance doorway and 1+1/4 inch square steel railings (hollow) the other.
The reason being that the work order was placed simply to "replace broken railing on wall" and the sub-contractor used what he had to hand.
It wasn't picked up on as not every job was visually checked and I believe it was like that for months. Once again as soon as Gary Lane became aware of the problem he ordered the sub-contractor to re-do it (to the best of my knowledge anyway).
Some sub-contractors get away with a lot, partially because work orders are often too general, with no exact specs. Either that, or the specifications given are for the first solution that comes to mind of the officer ordering the work.


What is most objectionable
in the treatment of estates
is the
"one size fits all"
The problem and the solution
     Example 1. The green wire mesh bin cages that replaced the torn down brick bin shelters. They were torn down because they were used for things other than storing rubbish. In many cases, all that was needed was for the height of the brick walls to be brought down to the level of the bins and reduced the length of the wall to the width of the bins so that there'd be no room for anyone to duck inside to "do a deal" and if there was, you could see them. The bins would then have remained hidden.
In the few cases that a wire mesh was the answer, the only style of architecture that they might suit is some of the 1980's builds, with coloured steel detailing elsewhere.
Our solution was to cover the bins with artwork but we're still left with the out-of-place, visually incongruous green wire mesh cages.
Example 2. The pseudo-Victorian main estate sign frame. Beecholme is a post-war design and the square estate sign frames were actually selected by the architect to go with the estate's design.
Now we have these pseudo-Victorian sign frames as do all other post-war, pre-war 1930's, 1960's and post modern 1980's and 90's.

In other words, instead of buying 4 different types for the (broadly speaking) 4 different generations of architectural design (1.Edwardian/Victorian 2. Pre-war 3. Post war 4. Modern), every type has pseudo-Victorian!!!

Don't try and tell me that the same savings of scale couldn't have been made with 4 sets of frames, because they could have been, it just would have taken a little more time and effort to research and then procure them.
In many cases all that was needed was a coat of paint to the frame with just the sign itself replaced.
The Hackney Homes logo
should be the"signature"
not the headline!
To compound the error, the frames have a two sections - for the name of the estate and the map of the estate - but Hackney Homes have used the name sign to put a Hackney Homes logo on instead of the estate name.
Apparently, every estate is Hackney Homes offices or head quarters - that's the implication.
We don't live at Hackney Homes!!!
We live at a named estate, which happens to be owned by Hackney Homes.

The old council signs had the estate name at the top - as it should be.

The new (centre pic above) has the H.Homes logo fighting with the estate name as a sort of "double headline" when of course the logo should be the signature.
To make matters worse, the standard signage within the frame (typography & map) seen throughout Hackney on other estates is as uniform as the pseudo-Victorian frame and in a style that screams "local authority social housing".
It wouldn't be hard to select typefaces just as clearly visible as "helvetica nueue" that matched the 4 "generational styles" of estates and that enhanced the visual appearance of the estate as a whole, while still maintaining the overall corporate identity (use H.H. colour palette & typeface for 25%(+) & same basic layout etc).
(I luckily managed to do a half decent job of Beecholme's signage. I was just at the right place (TRA meeting) at the right time (when they were due for replacement). I still had to keep the H.Homes logo at top, keep the white background on the map panel, etc etc or I would have been able to improve it rather more. BTW, My Casimir Rd estate sign is the better one of the 2 big estate signs.) 

It's also a PR mistake, one that is made time and again by Hackney Homes. Simply shouting "Hackney Homes" is not good PR.
In other words, not all advertising is good.

Everyone is already "aware" of
Hackney Homes existence
it's the quality of that perception that is important.
Hackney Homes NEWS has taken that message onboard to their credit. It used to be almost all articles stating that 95% of some target was reached - more like an internal newsletter than one for residents. The response from residents was always "What about the 5% who didn't get the service promised and expected?"
However, for months now articles have been centered around residents with only real improvements advertised in addition to a small stats section. It is a bigger job journalistically but as a newsletter for residents it had to be done. 

It would have been an idea for "Partners" to have, for example
"Pinnacle Estate Management, working for Hackney Homes" 
"Mouchel: Management Specialists - part of the Hackney Homes Team"
 (or similar - you get the idea) 
on badges instead of just Hackney Homes badges.

That would have enhanced Hackney Homes corporate ID.
Then there'd be no confusion and a better message would be disseminated.

A Mars bar and a Flake bar are both Cadburys, but they are not  "Cadburys" with a small "flake or "mars". There is a place for that, but not on the product, rather on special corporate ID campaigns and advertisements.
The trouble is that day to day decisions about advertising, PR and design are made by officers with absolutely no advertising or design training or experience. On bigger decisions they are often the ones putting recommendations to the board - the only recommendations the board sees.

They may be great administrators or managers, even great accountants, but they should not have to make design decisions that effect our homes and our visual environment for years to come.

I'm sure there's the odd exception to the rule but generally speaking decisions about design are not given the priority they warrant, given the effect our visual environment has on our quality of life.

The solution
PLEASE get a couple of design studios and a couple of architecture practices to volunteer advice.

Everyone knows there isn't the money to give every design job to a studio and every PR decision to a advertising agency, but there are a lot of design, advertising and architecture practices that would be only too happy to have a hand in improving the visual environment we all have to live in.

I'd bet almost every one of them would be prepared to volunteer a half hour advice session a week (or a phone call now and again) to answer day to day design questions fielded by officers, or to suggest alternative design solutions to architectural repairs and additions that require thought - like the bin cages and the estate signs (even corporate ID) and a dozen other things.

It's obvious when an architect or designer has been involved and conversely, obvious when they haven't.

The important bits of the presentation above
are on the sheet below
click on it to bring it up full size:


Don't forget, an AREA ACTION PLAN for Clapton
could go a long way to stop the worst of miss-matched and bad buildings/repairs and street architecture where in plain sight.

There's more on the Area Action Plan at

please do sign the petition!

Better yet
take a look at the "Tram Depot Arts Trust!?" page
which has a bit about the AAPlan
and the petitions for both the arts trust and action plan
so you can sign both!

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