20 November 2013

Kingston upon Thames Society Townscape Awards 2013

The Kingston upon Thames Society Townscape Awards were last given in 2010 and 2012 was skipped because the Society felt that there were not enough developments worthy of an award. This year several schemes were nominated that were good enough for consideration and the six winning designs were presented with their awards at the Society's Public Meeting in November.

After each award was given the developer/architect/owner told us a little bit about the development and how it had come about.

I had not been involved in the decisions (I am not complaining about that) and these are my personal views on the winning schemes.

Whether you agree with the judges or with myself does not really matter. The important thing is to take good design seriously and to encourage debate on what that "good design" is.

Canbury Studios can only be partially glimpsed from Canbury Park Road, which is a shame as it is a rather nice building. It is typically modern, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The refurbished Keep on Kings Road won an award mostly, it seems to me, for looking the same afterwards as it did before. It is a listed building and so while extensive work was done inside to convert offices, jails and an armoury into flats, the work on the facade was mostly repair work. The repairs did need to be done and they have been done well.

Queens Wood Court sits on the junction of Kingston Hill and Queens Road. It is part redevelopment and part infill. Being on a corner the trick was to try and match the neighbouring buildings on both sides and it won an award for achieving that. A less flattering way of putting that would be to say that it is inconspicuous, and I prefer buildings that stand out.

The refurbishment and extension of St. Raphael's Catholic Church on Portsmouth Road is clearly deserving of an award as it both restores the grand original features and extends the building in a sympathetic way.

The new Innovation House at Latchmere School is another typical modern building with brick, wood and glass. There is nothing wrong with it but if there were more modern buildings in Kingston then perhaps one as standard as this one would struggle to get noticed.

River Island on Clarence Street won an award because of the attention to detail in its design. Superficially it looks much like any other shop in the road but it is better for having a consistent look across the whole frontage (rather than the more common new shop on the ground floor and an older building above) and windows that are recessed on one floor, protruding on another and filled in on the side.

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