Oak Tree Gardens is a unique development project for St Albans, led by community design and initiated to provide funding for St Albans Museum and Gallery to move into its new home in the centre of the City. The design charrette was held in October 2014 and the community has remained involved ever since. A planning application was submitted at the end of 2015 and gained unanimous approval at a planning meeting held on 11 April 2016. This was the first in St Albans to be informed by a community led design charrette hosted by Look! St Albans, with the external independent facilitation team led by ImaginePlaces.
Team Look! believe the impact of the local community’s involvement is clearly demonstrated by the design which has the character and feel of St Albans. The community and landowner were committed to retaining aspects of the former museum site, including retaining three original walls from the 1898 building, protecting mature trees and respecting neighbours including St Peter’s Church.
We collectively wanted this development to future showcase for St Albans, and create a proud legacy for a significant Conservation Area site. The new homes have been built using solar gain concepts in addition to complement the theme to improve environmental quality, Morgan Sindall, lead constructor, has ensured that all demolition materials from the site were collected and transferred to waste management plants for reuse. From the demolition, 2,000 existing bricks were cleaned and used to repair and patch in existing walls.
To reach the total cost of the project, £3.5m needed to be raised by the District Council from developing the old St Albans Museum site. Look! St Albans brilliantly orchestrated a comprehensive Charrette process, bringing all interested stakeholders from the City together to develop a mutually agreed approach. Within the cleverly devised workshops, individuals from different organisations were able to air their differing views, then work together to solve obstacles well before the project reached its planning stages.
The stunning resultant development is a triumph, a true exemplar of multiple partnership working. The City and District are immensely proud of how it fits into its historic surroundings and its stunning design and build quality, created by our own local community. This concept of team working was an outstanding new concept for St Albans and a model we have already repeated with further developments across the District."
With the Council’s agreement, Paul Barrett Project Manager Morgan Sindall facilitated community site visits with Look! to learn about the construction and challenges of working on a heritage site. Paul also provided Look! with regular updates and photographs of the construction process and information on key personnel working on site to post on our website as well as giving the community a progress report at last years AGM.
A time capsule was discovered, and it was decided to rebury the original contents. At the invitation of Morgan Sindall, Look! St Albans’ chair added a letter and photographs illustrating the community’s involvement in the project. St Peters Church, pupils from St Albans Gymboree and Alban City School also contributed. A ceremony led by The Mayor to bury the new time capsule took place 8th November 2018. At that ceremony Morgan Sindall invited three couples who had, subject to contract, planned to make Oak Tree Gardens their home.
Richard Shwe Deputy Chief Executive (Commercial & Development) St Albans City & District Council emailed, “On behalf of Commercial & Development, thank you for a great job on getting Oak Tree Gardens Development being shortlisted. It is an amazing development and great to have Community Engagement involvement that has made it what it is today.
A proper design charrette principles in action that has moved it from an abstract paper drawing, to great architecture design into redevelopment of a museum into a marvellous home for people in the future. Well Done.”
The Planning Awards Ceremony will be held on 4th June at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) 2 Savoy Place, London. Members of Team Look! are delighted will be joined by some of our partners including Morgan Sindall.
Wish us luck!
Photographs taken from various sources, including Team Look!, ImaginePlaces and Morgan Sindall