E-VOLVE, Branson Coates’ new project for the Thames Gateway, makes the most of what we found on our given site – a series of artificial mounds aka the rubbish tips next to Rainham Marsh. We were asked by the Thames Gateway International Design Committee to look at this area as part of a broader initiative by Will Alsop. E-VOLVE defines the eastern end of Will’s strategic plan for a 12km strip running through Dagenham along the north bank of the river. Nigel realised that if built on, these hills at Rainham could lift any new buildings above the flood plain, and also comply with Will’s idea to concentrate the developments into a series of urban objects. Nigel and his team at Branson Coates proposes a constellation of distinct communities based on patterns. The two largest of these have complex plans but simple structures projected up from them. With each one housing around 3,000 people, they capitalise on the benefits of living closely together. The buildings themselves are intentionally undefined in terms of function, and are intended to encourage multi-use. Inhabitants can complete these open frameworks by choosing from a kit of internal components or façade panels. As if the next frontier for loft dwellers, they would combine the metropolitan volatility of Hoxton with the close-knit intensity of Italian hilltop towns. Like any medieval town, they appear haphazard, but when seen from the air they reveal a strong, almost branded, identity for each part of the town. The Nest, Ribbon Development, and Paisley are each a dense live-work community in their own right. Along with Raspberry Park, a casino/market, a school and two pubs, they make up E-VOLVE as a new urban model accommodating a total population of around 8,500. With nature in abundance, it stresses the balance between the natural setting and the sustainable principles that follow from this. Not least of its innovations is the town’s Wi-Fi status. Inhabitants will be able to work anywhere within its borders, in the pub, in the park or down by the river’s edge.
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