From the architect. Bohouse is a scheme of 20no. Live/Work apartments for rent just north of Middlesbrough Railway Station. This area is adjacent to the Middlehaven area masterplanned by Alsop some years ago and has emerged as a successful regeneration project known as Bohozone that includes a digital business acceleration centre, Boho One, Platform Arts, artists’ studios and workshops; and has further buildings planned generating new businesses and employment in the digital media and technology sector.
The building is a long, narrow three storey block running north up Sussex Street with two ‘rooms on the roof’ adding a fourth storey with roof terraces adjacent. There are three front doors serving stairways with apartments arranged around them resulting in an efficient net to gross area and good prospects for a social and business aspect to neighbourliness, an important factor in the briefing for the building which anticipated a ‘networking’ environment both in and around the building.
At its southern end the block forms a side to a small section of high quality public realm developed with Boho One and acting as an orientation space for Bohozone and a meeting/resting space between the town and the much anticipated Middlehaven beyond. Each tenant is expected to have a credible and functioning business in the digital or creative sector and many will have or will develop relationships with the larger businesses in the adjacent Boho One building.
The principal skin of the whole block is blue brickwork, simply detailed to allow crisp and deliberate openings, returns and junctions. In a number of areas this skin is cut away to the thickness of half a brick to reveal areas of bright colour accenting elevations, important areas in the building, or signalling to a wider urban area that the Bohozone is arriving and wanting to be noticed. The palette of materials is reduced but similar to the Boho One office next door, deliberately to allow them to be seen as related but Bohouse becomes quieter than the bigger neighbour. Colour panels are Trespa and windows are aluminium framed.
Each apartment has one or two bedrooms and a dedicated work space. This is located near the front door and is able to be opened out but remain distinct from the living area of the residence. This fairly unique arrangement allows home working but more importantly allows a fully functioning business to employ people and entertain clients or customers comfortably without compromising living arrangements. A high level of design input has been achieved relative to projects of this type in the area resulting in very desirable homes with work space and even in two instances roof terraces in the centre of town. It was recognised very early in the process that to be successful this scheme had to be affordable but also stylish and suit the image of the creative sector it is trying to attract.
A large opening on to Sussex Street allows carparking behind gates in an undercroft to the rear of the building. This provides secure parking and is treated in a similar way to other cut away sections of the building in that the whole of the undercroft walls, services and soffit are painted red imparting warmth to an otherwise hard external space. A very limited soft landscape area forms part of the external scheme that joins to a garden terrace alongside Boho One offering another meeting space in the semi private space between the two buildings and reinforcing the connections between the two schemes.
The apartments are a key ingredient in the plan to seed a creative quarter in Middlesbrough and have generated significant interest since they were launched in September 2010. Approaching half full, one tenant has relocated from Sheffield to live and work back in their native Middlesbrough because of this facility. Bohouse is markedly different from any competitive project in Middlesbrough being a contemporary design, offering a unique mix of accommodation and allowing town centre living that is in short supply in the town.
Sustainability: Bohouse has achieved a Code Level 3 using air source heat pumps, low energy fittings and managing to achieve through compact planning many of the required spatial and utility features internally to the apartment. Local smart metering allows a user interface with energy consumption linking use to expenditure. The essential ethos of the scheme promotes sustainable transport use, the scheme is directly outside the rail station with good connections to the main East Coast north-south rail link, within 400m of the main bus interchange and adjacent the retail heart of the town. Within a restricted cost envelope and on a restricted and awkwardly shaped site the environmental credentials of the scheme are good. All supplies are metered and Erimus operate a smart meter and monitoring regime that will monitor energy consumption and coach good energy management where necessary.