The second stop of my tour is was The Bridge in Dartford. This is a much lesser known project than it’s predecessor, The Staithes, in Newcastle, but benefits me in being closer to home. For those of you who don’t know these developments, there lies a fascinating story behind them.
The designers Wayne and Geraldine Hemmingway are better known for their Red or Dead brand than housing projects, but they fell into the limelight after must press coverage calling current housing the “Wimpeyfication” and “Barrattifcation” of Britain. So Taylor Wimpey invited the Hemmingway’s to do better. So they embarked on a long journey of research culminating the The Staithes. Their second development in a similar vein is The Bridge. The development itself is in a slightly out of town location, but once inside there is hope.
The architecture immediately jumps out as being varied, and interesting. It has clearly taken its lead from Dutch and Scandinavian design, such as Ijburg in The Netherlands, Malmo in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark. Like Newhall, it feels refreshing to find a development that isn’t laid out on a strict rectangular grid. The dwellings are placed at a variety of angles, with set-back dwellings and varied roof heights. The is an overall coherence which means it is interesting enough without becoming illegible and a hotchpotch of styles.
The spaces feel humane. There are no overwhelming high rises that overpower the street-scape, the houses and the street ratio feel well-proportioned. Where dwellings such as blocks of flats do go over 3 storeys they are used as landmark buildings, like full-stops at the end of row. It feels more like a place you can wander around, rather than somewhere to just pass through. There are pedestrian paths that weave between the buildings and provide points of exploration, interest and short-cuts.
Could I live in a place like this? Yes I definitely could and look forward to more developments from Hemingway in the future.