Fresh Wharf is a development of 950 units across 18 blocks ranging from 3 to 15 storeys whose masterplan was designed by Metropolitan Workshop (MW). The first phase, of which Block A is part, was designed by Frank Reynolds Architects and comprises 532 units across 10 blocks.

Brick is fundamental to the design and its integration to the local context, the Victorian wharves and Barking, and the wider London region. MW took inspiration from the historically important industries of the area which included rope making, basket weaving and jute production to inspire the design of the buildings brick panels. In addition to this MW utilised the palettes of the historic wharves to derive the brickwork colours for the five distinct character areas of the development.

The use of brick offers a unifying element across the development with varying colours being read as separate family members with their own identity. Spandrel panels of feature intricate stitch and weave patterns with the saddleback engineering bricks offering a texture reminiscent of historic industries. Double soldier courses every other floor frame the bays. These tie in with the double height colonnades reminiscent of the grand London terraces of the Victorian era.

Innovative 3D printing techniques allowed MW to produce physical models to test and develop their design. This led to larger expanses of blank brickwork to be treated with snapped headers to add pattern and texture.

The architect’s brickwork design on Block A gives an elegant and understated appearance to what is a building of significant scale. This simplicity, however, belies the technical difficulty of the laying of the brickwork. Three brick types, three mortar types as well as internal and external dog-legged specials required significant logistical and management skills to compliment the precision hand skills of the individual charge-hand and bricklayer.

Careful planning, preparation and precision was required in the setting out process. This proves was key from the base of the building and at every floor as well as with each brickwork feature type which included:

  • Angled brickwork, with dog-legged specials.
  • Multiple courses of soldier courses
  • Recessed and projecting brick banding
  • Recessed header panels with coloured mortar
  • Projecting headers
  • Basket weave panels incorporating saw tooth bricks
  • Stack bond using saw tooth bricks 

Exceptional levels of diligence and hand-eye skills were required of LMB’s team, led by Project Manager Peter Corbett and Supervisor, Michael Corbett, in order to articulate the architects intent – particularly in regard to the basket-weave panels which recall the historic connection of Barking to the weaving and fishing industries.

All areas of the façade required constant vigilance as even the ‘simple’ half bond panels featured projecting headers – which on a building of this height require high levels of setting out skill to ensure that they are true to line.