Hawkridge tower was an integral part of West Kentish Town estate when it was built in 1962. The estate was designed as a ‘mixed development’, combining a high-rise tower at the centre with low-rise flats in the surrounding area. The mixture of high and low density building types resulted in an average overall density that was acceptable. There were 71 flats in Hawkridge (24 one-bedroom and 47 two-bedroom flats) and 317 in three and four storey blocks arranged around courtyards. London County Council had been punctilious regards the proposed density of the estate, which was eventually agreed at 135.6 persons per acre (the equivalent of 335 persons per hectare), making sure that there was enough open space for recreation of residents:
Hawkridge under constructionHawkridge in 1964
In 1988 Camden Council sold Hawkridge due to structural problems, and the tower was subsequently repaired and converted into student accommodation by University College London. It provided 195 student bedrooms and was renamed Hawkridge House. UCL subsequently increased the occupancy, building an additional two-storey block at the foot of the tower in 1998 and carrying out internal alterations in 2007. Hawkridge now has 234 student bedrooms, an increase of 20% from 1988. More positively, UCL has over-clad the original ‘Reema’ concrete panels to improve the thermal efficiency of the building, which has resulted in a more colourful appearance.
When the rebuilding of West Kentish Town is being considered, it is necessary to take into account the occupancy of the tower in density calculations. The area of the estate is 3.4 hectares. When built the estate of 388 homes had a density of 114 units per hectare. Due to the increased 20% increase of occupancy of the tower the overall estate density is now the equivalent of 118 units per hectare (71 flats plus 20% is the equivalent of 85 flats). An alternative measure of density is the number of bedrooms per hectare; in this case the 234 student bedrooms need to be taken into account when considering the redevelopment of the estate.
It is unfortunate that the Council sold Hawkridge in 1988. Apart from the loss of council homes, the subsequent development of the site by UCL makes improving this part of the estate difficult. The poor quality of the design of the 1998 block blights the pedestrian experience at the centre of the area and hinders the opening up of new routes. It is hoped that UCL will be engaged during the process of redeveloping West Kentish Town estate so that these deficiencies can be addressed.