On the bank of the Ouseburn River, half a mile downstream from the British city centre of Newcastle, The Malings by Ash Sakula Architects repurposes a recently deindustrialised riverside site with 76 new dwellings, previously occupied by Malings pottery which stood on the river’s edge since 1817. The 6,800 meter squared development provides a diversity of housing typologies including courtyard houses, back-to-back houses, six-storey tower blocks and an adaptation of the much-loved Tyneside flat, as well as public spaces and commercial tenancies along the river’s edge.
Ash Sakula’s design points to both the industrial and residential character of Newcastle. The three to six storey blocks straddle a residential and industrial scale, deftly speaking to both through a pared back architectural language. The quiet material palette of red buff brick and simple rectangular forms takes from the utilitarian, economic and robust nature of its industrial context, sitting in accord with the warehouses on the opposite bank of the Ouseburn. This industrial language is then layered with a domestic one, using the sites slope to break down the buildings mass, creating a series of undulating forms and syncopated rooflines familiar to Newcastle’s residential streets, framing the river below.
The dwellings are planned along five linear rows which radiate towards the river’s edge, creating intimate sloping streets and generous wedges of outdoor living space. Each dwelling has its own external front door, continuing the street-based urbanism that takes from the traditional life of Newcastle’s terraced neighbourhoods. Each resident’s relationship to the street establishes a strong sense of community and place – connecting residents directly with one another and the Ouseburn, sharing the view of the river down the south-west sloping streets in the mid-afternoon sun.
The focus on public life continues throughout the design with shared allotments, cycle stores, recycling areas and a raised central public square overlooking the river. For Ash Sakula, creating openings between residents private and shared lives and providing opportunity for occupant agency is pivotal to all their residential projects. They intentionally design spaces with ambiguity or plant spatial situations that beg a question, it may question use, boundaries of ownership, or private and public life, where the user has a sense of agency in how the space is occupied. In The Malings, Ash Sakula placed a long, wide bench between the front gardens, which is shared with ones neighbour. It could become a shared space for sitting, used for storage, or for piling up plants to. It’s function is open to interpretation by the residents, and futhermore it’s function must be negotiated between neighbours, boundaries are set or broken down by their social interactions, encouraged by the spatial situation planted by Ash Sakula.
Any ambiguities, questions, extensions that one can plant into a project allow for better city making and neighbourhood building.
Cany Ash – Partner, Ash Sakula Architects
The Malings is the first of a series of developments in a wider masterplan of the Lower Ouseburn Valley in partnership with sustainable real estate business Carillon Igloo, Newcastle City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency, to take place across six waterfront sites in Newcastle, with the Malings heralding the developments initial success.
The Malings is the recipient of the RIBA North-East Award 2017 and the Supreme Winner at the National Design Awards 2016.