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“It’s a proper piece of city,” says Graham Haworth, of Fish Island Village on the furthest fringes of the Olympic Park. While high-rises and big commercial developments now dominate much of neighbouring Stratford, here the atmosphere is more low-key, with a mix of housing and creative studios in mid-rise blocks framing landscaped courtyards.

Over the past eight years, Haworth Tompkins, together with fellow architects Lyndon Goode and Pitman Tozer, have taken 2.2ha of wasteland and warehouses at Fish Island and turned it into a bustling neighbourhood. Arranged around two new streets and a 200m public path newly opened along the Hertford Union Canal, the architects have designed 21 buildings, ranging between six and eight storeys, which provide 588 homes (nearly 30% of them affordable) and more than 5,500m2 of commercial space.  
Lyndon Goode has contributed Lanterna, a sleek restaurant and apartment building clad in basalt-black herringbone-patterned precast concrete (see CQ 266), while Pitman Tozer has added three blocks of mixed-tenure housing on one of the new streets, Monier Road. But by far the biggest element of the scheme is Haworth Tompkins’ Neptune Wharf, an ensemble of 17 blocks containing 501 homes and, intriguingly, a fashion campus operated by creative business incubator The Trampery. Across the ground floors of nine of the buildings, Neptune Wharf offers 56 low-cost studios for designers and other members of the local creative community. This helps to ensure that the street frontages and public realm are busy throughout the day. 
The first Neptune Wharf blocks flank one side of Lofthouse Square, Fish Island’s main public space. Neighbouring the black-concrete Lanterna, these blocks have striking grid-like facades of solid grey concrete. The square’s paving is also precast concrete, with a texture created by Reckli moulds. Such overt use of concrete roots the development as a permanent presence in the area’s patchwork of wharves, garages and in-between spaces, and is a nod to the island’s industrial heritage – not least the oil and tar processing that inspired Lanterna’s basalt-black exterior. 
The square also acts as the entrance to the fashion campus. When Haworth Tompkins took over the scheme from a Stockwool masterplan in 2014, one of its early decisions was to invert the section of the buildings on Lofthouse Square, swapping out the double-height penthouses for a 7m-high space at ground level. This provides a generous reception area, with a café and gallery. Full-height glazing connects these lively spaces with the square and canalside, drawing visitors through to the courtyards, studios and production facilities beyond. 
Haworth describes these concrete-framed, double-height spaces as “very robust architectural containers” and sees them as crucial to the spirit of Fish Island Village. “As a practice, we like the idea of designing buildings that you can use, that can take knocks and can also accommodate other people’s voices.” For The Trampery, interior architect Bureau de Change has inserted mezzanines into the concrete framework to make a variety of social and studio spaces. Haworth foresees the addition of many other layers of activity to the base architecture over the decades to come. 
The structure is based around conventional 225mm reinforced-concrete flat slabs, cast in situ, supported on 665m x 200mm perimeter columns. The facade emphasises this post-and-beam arrangement with 665mm-wide vertical and horizontal concrete panels fixed in front of a thermal break and a layer of high-performance insulation. These panels were initially intended to be precast, but contractor Hill opted to cast the lower levels in situ, while the upper levels were precast on site. Any variations in finish have been evened out by grit-blasting the surfaces. Thin joints at 6m intervals correspond with the grid behind and echo the sharp appearance of the neighbouring Lanterna. 
When the development began a decade ago, planners at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets demanded that 20% of energy use be offset with renewable generation and that carbon emissions be reduced by 50% over the Building Regulations. This has been achieved through a fabric-first approach, with high levels of airtightness and insulation, combined with rooftop photovoltaics and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. Peabody, the housing association that co-owns the site, has also increased the original target of 4% affordable housing to 25%. All homes have access to private outdoor space, including rooftop terraces for some of the affordable maisonettes. 
As Neptune Wharf stretches along the canal away from Lofthouse Square, the buildings become more residential in nature, and brick takes over from concrete as the dominant exterior material. Precast-concrete elements, such as sills, lintels, string courses and balcony soffits, offer a sense of continuity, with both acid-etched and fair-faced finishes.  

Project Team


Haworth Tompkins, Lyndon Goode, Pitman Tozer 

Structural engineer


Main contractor


Fred Howarth, Rory Gardiner, Kilian O’Sullivan