THE GRAYSTACKS PROJECT
From Concept to Completion
Graystacks from above looking over the building's shared roof terrace towards Castle Marina
The ‘Graystacks Project’ is a path finding development of student town houses which began about two or three years ago as the result of a conversation between an architect and a NAG member.
This page of the website follows the progress of the project from the original planning application submitted in early 2013 through to the point at which the first tenants will arrive and move into their new homes in September 2014.
To date so-called ‘purpose built’ (PB) student accommodation has very much tended to follow a standard pattern of cluster flats with en-suite facilities in each study-bedroom, and shared kitchen and living space. It is probably fair to say that, whilst this type of student housing has proved to be popular with first-year students and their parents, and some overseas students, it has not proved to be attractive to the majority of returning students. Indeed, research carried out under the aegis of our universities, Nottingham City Council and other bodies certainly bears out this belief.
Students are not a homogeneous clientele and so it would be unrealistic to expect the factors that affect the choices students make when seeking accommodation to be easy to delineate.
They are many and diverse and include rental, room size, layout, parking provision, a perceived freedom to ‘do as you want’, peer pressure, student expectations. However, one of the dominant factors influencing returning students’ choice of accommodation is design.
The majority of student PB can be criticised for its uniform unattractiveness. Indeed, as hinted at already the ‘low grade hotel’ quality of the rooms, facilities, noise levels, decoration have all been cited on numerous occasions by students as reasons why first-year students, determined to get out of shoe-boxes which aren’t fit-for-purpose, instead look to HMOs to provide their homes for the next two or three years of their studies.
Cross-section of the 'stacks' showing the layout with its central atrium or light well
So, at its inception the Graystacks Project architects faced the challenge of how to design purpose built accommodation that provides a genuine alternative to the tried and tested HMO model of group living in a package that is also physically attractive and adaptable enough to have a long and potentially useful life in another guise should changing circumstances and demand at some later stage result in a need to convert it into apartments or indeed into larger family homes.
The 'bows' of the Graystacks ship or flat iron shape
THE PLANNING APPLICATION
Church Lukas Architects submitted a planning application (13/00865/PFUL3) on behalf of Omni Developments to build seven four-storey HMO-type student ‘town houses’ on a small site, previously used as a car park, alongside the canal on Castle Boulevard.
The design is based on a town house arrangement in which all of the seven town houses have shared social, kitchen and dining space at ground level, with three floors of bedrooms (twelve in each townhouse) above a naturally lit central atrium. Bathrooms on each floor get away from the ‘en-suite’ model currently used in other purpose built student housing, and relate more closely to the ‘family house’/HMO model. One of the town houses has been designed to have ‘... an accessible room for wheelchair occupants with a full lifting platform to be provided at ground floor’.
Also, the design means that a range of options exist for conversion of the scheme back to residential use, including the possibility of changing the building into large individual family town houses or a mix of two-bed and one-bed apartments.
To view the planning application go to Nottingham City Council’s Planning and Building Control section at:
The Nottingham Action Group on HMOs' comments on this application can be downloaded here:
Graystacks from the Canal
CONSTRUCTION IN PROGRESS
Nottingham City Council's Development Control Committee approved the application and, once the hoardings had gone up, work on this potentially trail blazing development began.
GRAYSTACKS IN MARCH 2014Graystacks taking shape on Castle Boulevard
The flat iron/boat shape of the building emerging from behind the scaffolding
The back windows & patio doors reveal the shared decking area alongside the Canal and passing boat traffic
GRAYSTACKS IN MAY 2014
Graystacks from the Canal with Nottingham Castle in the background
GRAYSTACKS IN JUNE 2014
GRAYSTACKS AUGUST 2014
FRIDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2014 - GRAYSTACKS PROJECT COMPLETION DAY
Graystacks was formally opened by Councillor Dave Trimble on Tuesday 11 August 2015. An account of the opening, with photographs, can be found by following this link: Graystacks Official Opening