In Pictures: Strata Tower, Residential Skyscraper At Elephant And Castle

Chances are you’ll have seen Strata, even if you weren’t looking for it. The 147m-tall tower looms over south London, drawing in the eye from most of the city’s vantage points. With a distinctive profile that has sharply divided architecture fans and local residents alike, and a sloping crown topped by a trio of wind turbines, Strata is perhaps the capital’s most conspicuous example of sustainable architecture.

Strata is central London’s tallest residential block, shaving the Barbican towers by a handful of metres, and is the first part of the long-planned, hugely ambitious, £1.5 billion regeneration at Elephant & Castle. As the vanguard for gentrification in the area, Strata wears its social conscience well: 25% of its 408 apartments* are earmarked for sustainable housing, and 20 of those will be taken by residents from the Heygate Estate.

Yet the building’s ideal resident is an altogether wealthier breed of pioneering urbanaut in this windswept corner of SE1*. Floors 10 through 42 house the building’s market-rate units, ranging from studios to three-bed flats. The affordable flats share the same floorplan as their loftier neighbours, but they throng in the lower reaches of the block, and will be served by one dedicated lift, while two more lifts whisk residents in the full-price flats up to their impressive views, effectively segregating the two groups. It will be up to the building management to decide whether the 39th floor sky lounge would be open to all residents.

Pleasant as the apartments are, this might not be considered a place for people who actually like living in London. It offers the veneer of London living, with the city splayed, to use TS Eliot’s phrase, “like a patient etherised upon a table” through floor-to-ceiling windows. With the excellent soundproofing, and the lack of balconies, the view of the city is like a particularly detailed wall hanging, allowing residents to imagine they live in The Smoke’s inner burgs without having to deal with the compromises such conditions may entail.

At the top of the building sit the three wind turbines, 9m each in diameter, which make Strata look slightly like a long-forgotten Philishave, and inspired the “Razor” sobriquet. The developer, Brookfield, is justifiably proud of the engineering ingenuity involved: the first turbines in the world to be integrated within the building envelope, they sit within a steel frame atop the tower, on a dampener to ensure minimal noise pollution for residents. The tower’s concave back is designed to funnel air upwards, utilising the Venturi effect to create a vortex that will power the unidirectional turbines.

But will it work? Nobody knows. At best, the turbines could generate between 15kw and 19kw each, contributing to around 8% of Strata’s energy requirements. Project director Justin Black described it as “one big experiment”, the success of which won’t be known until two years after completion.

Consider that the turbines cost £1.35m (included within the total project budget of £113.5m)*: it seems a lot of money for what could be minimal reward. Perhaps this is the price we pay for these nascent dabblings in sustainability.

* The following corrections have been made to this piece:

- The original stated that 20% of 410 apartments were designated as affordable

- The original claimed that Strata was in SE17

- The original stated that the turbine cost was in addition to the £113.5m overall cost

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

  • http://undefined emkay

    maybe i just don’t know all the ins and outs of it, but the fact that they essentially sequester the people in the affordable housing from the other market rate flats absolutely horrifies me. how do they get away with this? what progress does it make? is it a matter of the building having dedicated lifts to certain floors for logistical reasons (as is the case in many high rise office buildings–i.e. one lift for floors 1-15, another for 15-30, etc in order to minimize congestion)or do they honestly think it necessary to segregate the groups?

    the fact that all the affordable housing is blocked in one section of the building is bad enough, but the lift just really sends it home for me. this affordable housing stigma is really upsetting, especially considering the market right now and how difficult it is for ANYONE to get on the property ladder.

  • http://undefined Ian

    That’s so funny yet at the same time disgraceful that they’re putting one entrance/lift for the riff-raff and a separate one for the richies.

    Mind you both lots can get mugged just the same once they step out the front door.

  • http://undefined svc

    Does it really seem like “a lot of money for what could be minimal reward”?

    1% of total project cost seems like a very small amount to spend on something which could not only generate a not-insignificant 8% of the building’s energy, but could also inspire similar and improved schemes in other new developments.

  • http://undefined HoosierSands

    The affordable housing is all shared ownership-that is, they will be leaseholders who will not own 100% equity in their property. In order to buy a shared ownership flat applicants have to be able to get a mortgage, i.e. they have to have a job. That includes the ex-Heygate residents who will either already be leaseholders or eligible to be shared owners for this building.

    If there’s any riff-raff it will probably be the sub tenants of the “private” buy-to-let flats.

  • http://undefined jamesu

    It’s quite common – the seperate entrances – in this sort of development. The law requires that there are flats, not that there is social utopia. The private bit will be managed by the developer (or their appointed partner) and the social housing will be managed by a Housing Association – this way avoids confusing ‘who does what’ issues in the communal areas, and – yes – reassured private owners that they are not buying into a council block, which has practical financial conciquences for valuations and borrowing.

    It also means social tenants arn’t paying service charge for fancy lobbys, concierge services etc that the private owners might like to have.

    I don’t think anyone ever claimed social housing percentages were perfect, but there are a bunch of people going into decent homes who might not have been – I call that a win.

    • Tom Williams

      Cheers for explaining.

      I too was initially unsettled by the segregation highlighted in the article, but separate management arrangements makes this setup seem more sensible, even if it isn’t perfectly socially harmonius.

  • http://undefined Simon

    Check your units please; “15kW/H” (fifteen kilowatts per hour) doesn’t mean anything.
    most likely it should be 15kW?

  • http://undefined Looondoner

    Hello,

    I have looked into purchasing a 1-bed flat under the Shared Ownership scheme at Strata and they don’t come cheap: the service charge for a one bed is £160-£190, which includes the concierge, but little else. This is on top of the rent and the mortage, which brings the overall cost of rent/service charge/mortgage to easily £900 a month. Separating the lifts to service different parts of the building makes logistic sense, but it is of concern if shared owners would be prevented from accessing the sky lounge on the 42nd floor, that would be segregation indeed. Of course, none of the information I have just read here is mentioned when you visit the showroom.

  • http://undefined isotype

    Ok so I had to register just to put right some really annoying misinformation here. There is no separate entrance for the shared ownership flats, there is just one entrance, past the concierge. Also there is no segregation of lifts. As far as I know the lifts go to all floors. What is the case is that you need to swipe a smart card to get the lift to go to your floor and only your floor. Which makes perfect sense in a building with 400 odd apartments. Finally I don’t know where the last posters £900 a month figure came from. My total cost (mortgage, rent and service charge) for a 1 bedroom shared ownership apartment comes to less than £700 a month. Renting the same flat on the open market would be closer to £1000. I would never be able to afford to have my own 1 bed flat in this area without this scheme, and certainly not in a luxury development like this. The irony is that in the shared ownership section there are no studios, just 1 and 2 bedroom flats. So while I am getting a place on a low floor, people above me will be paying a lot more just to have a kitchen with a bed and a sofa in it. Every place has its downsides, but altogether this one gets my thumbs up, no question.

    • DeanN

      Thanks for your comment.

      The suggestion that the building would have segregated lifts was based on comments by the developers during our tour in March, months before Strata opened to residents; they said that this was one option, but not that it would definitely be taken up.

  • Ruddocks

    And now it’s November and I’ve yet to see all three turbines operating. Is this another untested architectural dream gone wrong or do we expect success on the longer run? Is this another “bendy bridge”?

  • Ruddocks

    And now it’s November and I’ve yet to see all three turbines operating. Is this another untested architectural dream gone wrong or do we expect success on the longer run? Is this another “bendy bridge”?