HTA@50 - Officers Field

Reflecting changes in procurement the unusual site at Officers Field with its rich local context was made available through a central Government initiative for regional development agencies, in this case SWRDA, disposing of land in Government ownership. On Portland near Weymouth in Dorset the former Royal Navy Air Station RNAS Osprey received Outline consent in 2002 to become the site for industrial, education and residential uses.

After admiring the design of houses at Upton Site C innovative developer Zero C approached HTA to develop the design for the 2008 competition for the residential element. HTA’s winning design prioritised sustainable living through a fabric-first approach and a mix of home sizes and tenures with public open space to help the development become part of the wider community on Portland. With a supportive Case Officer keen to see the design optimised for its setting HTA and Zero C secured Planning consent in 2009.

The source of the highly valued limestone, Portland’s streets and homes have wound across its steep topography creating sequences of short vistas and winding paths lined with houses. Though connected to the mainland by the narrow isthmus of Chesil Beach it feels very much like an island; the houses seem to huddle together.

The layout of the new houses emulates the character while providing for today’s spatial needs, the whole unified by a considered public realm design by HTA Landscape organised around a village green and key pedestrian route identified through detailed community consultation. The house designs negotiate the challenging topography incorporating retaining walls where needed and offer a highly insulated fabric and energy generated by the on-site biomass CHP system and PV panels.

Portland stone was used extensively, it grounds the development in its place and is the point of reference for render colours and roofing. Exceptional construction quality matched the high quality design of a contemporary aesthetic of pitched roofs and render at medium density.

With many homes purchased before completion the internal arrangements were temporarily altered to enable the development to become the athletes village for events hosted by the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Centre as part of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Although the regional development agencies are no longer with us the need for sustainable development remains. Officers Field demonstrates innovation in design can deliver successful medium density contemporary housing that is attractive and respectful of its context while also having low energy demand met from renewable sources. The integrated mix of tenures and the high quality of the public spaces has helped to integrate the new housing in the established community and a pleasant place to live.

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