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Can a simple street pattern create an improved connection to the water and soften the hard edge of Hull’s industrial waterfront?

Site History
In the past, water has always defined the urban fabric of Hull. Shipping, be it for trade, transportation, or fishing, demanded the construction of a series of docks built in the 18th and 19th centuries. The majority of these have now been decommissioned, and either infilled to provide development space or repurposed. However, they still form an important part of Hull’s history and define the physical character of the city. For instance, major flooding in the town centre in 2013 prompted expedited plans to install flood defences around the Albert Dock area.

Water was once seen as an essential asset bringing many benefits to the people living and working along the Humber whereas now, with the challenges brought by climate change, we risk water being viewed as a problem. The development of Hull is an exciting opportunity to allow water to once again define its urban fabric. We propose to create enriching streets and neighbourhoods which embrace water and manage flood risk by dealing with the causes of flooding close to source, using innovative and robust design to create beautiful places to live.

Urban Strategy
Our urban strategy seeks to retain the key aims outlined in the ‘Key Sites Design Guide’ and maximise each site’s connections to the water and each other. To achieve this, our proposal includes a series of diagonal streets creating efficient courtyard blocks of housing in a variety of types.

For the Hull Arena and the northern edge of the Humber Quays West site, split-level terraced townhouses are designed with layouts to mitigate against flooding. In blocks closer to the river, dual aspect apartments are arranged over ground floor commercial/arts/community uses to populate the water’s edge and create a vibrant new destination for Hull. To the south edge, taller residential buildings face out into the Humber rather than towards each other, creating an elegant cluster of simple forms. The buildings are considered in repeated modules to enable them to be pre-fabricated offsite, thus reducing construction costs and programme.A modular system is efficient, can utilise the skills of local tradespeople in Hull, and use locally sourced materials that are readily available given the volume of materials passing through via the estuary.  

Parking will be essential to the success of the scheme, but cars should be hidden from sight where possible. We propose cost effective under croft parking within the courtyards, while split-level houses will have integral garages at ground floor. Generous streets with shared surfaces allow access for residents and emergency vehicles only.

Public Realm - Softening the edge of the Humber Quays
The landscaping proposals illustrated in here look to celebrate water throughout the scheme and introduce biodiverse, playful and educational, green space from rooftop to streetscape and even to the tidal edges of the Humber Estuary.

Where the city meets the estuary, the edge is often hard, a result of the city’s industrious heritage. Estuary landscapes are typically highly biodiverse, however hard sheet pile edges often suppress foraging activity and habitat for wildlife. Proposals within this submission look to soften the edge of Humber Quays by introducing a new floating nature reserve using an innovative yet simple design solution which creates green islands that not only provide essential habitat for birds and flying insects but also collect stray litter from the water and help introduce wildlife to the city.

Making Great Streets
The proposed new streets will integrate into the Trans-Pennine trail, improve the pedestrian and cycle network, and offer an opportunity to extend the principles established in the nature reserve and implement Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) throughout.

Surface profiles and materials will be designed to slow down the rate of surface water run-off from hard areas and new buildings across both schemes. Water can be directed to sunken, connected rain gardens which provide a degree of attenuation at source, infiltration through the soil and evapotranspiration via planting. Connected rain gardens will provide low level greening and opportunities for tree planting throughout the neighbourhood. Informal play can also be encouraged via bridge sections, and natural boulder routes through planted areas.

Considerate management of pedestrians, vehicles and cycles will form the basic layout of new streets. Careful arrangement of street furniture allows people to wait and meet others near entrances. Offset SUDS planting areas within the main routes create intimate pocket spaces set away from the pedestrian flow. Routes less suited to loitering, heavier footfall or movement of cyclists can be more narrow and greener with limited seating opportunities. Green or textured paving discourages speeding cycles while providing an attractive, extension to rain gardens and other landscape features.

Podium Decks and Roof Spaces.
The theme of living with water extends from the Humber through the public streets and into private spaces both at ground level and up on podium decks and roof spaces.

Communal gardens at ground level and raised above the street will provide new residents of Hull with relaxing, green, social and recreational outdoor space set within a dense urban environment. As such gardens need to work hard to provide a range of spaces fit for a variety of activities undertaken by residents throughout the day. A rich and diverse planting palette will help to create healthy, natural and lush gardens intimate in scale and sheltered from overlooking windows and strong winds.  

Vibrant and exciting naturalistic play spaces that encourage creativity and social cooperation will provide integrated naturalistic play elements alongside water as part of the wider water management strategy. Play spaces will be designed so that nearby private space is respected and spaces for all age groups are provided without one dominating the other.

Ecological interventions such as bird boxes, bug hotels and water bodies will help introduce wildlife to the gardens and improve the wider ecological network across Hull by extended flight paths for birds, insects and bats. Installing some of these features within or near to play space also improves the educational value of the gardens for children and improves richness for all ages. 

Hull Waterfront Masterplan
Location: Hull, UK
Type: Masterplan, Residential, Commercial
Collaborators: PLAN (Landscape Architect)
Size: 36000m2
Client: Hull City Council
Status: Competition
Date: 2019

Project Team: Alex Smith, Ayse Bailey, Maegan Icke, Raffaela Swoboda