Just an hour by train from London, Luton airport around 45 minutes’ drive and the Chiltern Hills on the doorstep, it’s no wonder that the Buckinghamshire town of Aylesbury is embarking on a major regeneration scheme to ‘re-invent itself’
The ancient County town, dating from 1529, is famed for its bustling market place, the surrounding countryside, the trial of the Great Train Robbers in the 1960s and of course the eponymous Aylesbury duck.
It is also the birthplace of Jonathan Dimbleby (David’s brother) and where Ronnie Barker started his acting career (there’s even a statue to him in the town). It is, however, Aylsbury Vale District Council’s newest development, ‘The Exchange’, that is causing the greatest excitement.
Following many years of gradual decline, the town centre is currently receiving a massive make-over with the development of the ‘Exchange’ – a multi-million pound residential / commercial development located right in the heart of the historic market town.
Despite having much of its heart ripped out in the 1960’s, when substantial parts of the old town were demolished to make way for new housing and office developments, Alylsbury still retains much of its historical roots.
This is especially apparent in the streets surrounding St Mary’s church, the National Trust’s King’s Head Coaching Inn and the town centre canal basin and marina of the 1820’s Grand Union Canal
It was against this background that we were delighted to become involved in one of the biggest transformations the town had seen, since the construction of modern and vibrant office blocks in the 1980s.
The ‘Exchange’ is a mix-use development of residential apartments, commercial premises and brand new public square, constructed on what was previously a surface car park in the centre of the town.
The scheme, Aylesbury’s first purpose-built mixed restaurant, commercial and residential development, comprises forty-seven 1 and 2 bed high spec. apartments, small office premises and a mix of cultural and entertainment facilities including shops, cafes, and bars.
It also includes a stunning public space that will become the venue for activities such as street theatre and inspiring contemporary art.
The £12m project has been developed by Alylebsury Vale District Council in partnership with independent construction company, London based Durkan. The family owned business has worked closely with the local authority to create a highly desirable location for both residents and visitors alike.
On the ground floor, of the five storey apartment building, the commercial units are housed in an Italian style colonnade. This striking feature is reminiscent of cities such as Turin with its bustling piazzas and imposing colonnades.
This was, no doubt, the inspiration for the strong design element and we were delighted to be involved in its creation.
Our initial involvement was to work closely with Durkan and specific architect’s drawings, to create a series of CAD designs showing the stonework components as well as demonstrating how the finished façade would look.
Following several on-site project meetings that covered, in particular, the difficulties involved in fixing the stone pieces to the underside of the arches, we submitted plans, designs and colour / material samples for approval.
Our proposal, to supply wetcast stone in a bathstone finish to create a series of imposing colonnades was subsequently approved and our in-house team of skilled craftspeople began work on producing totally bespoke handcrafted moulds.
We produced 100 jamb segments and 130 arch pieces in total in order to create the ten domed arches. All designed to fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
These were all manufactured off-site and delivered to site on a ‘just in time’ basis with the first delivery arriving less than six weeks from the initial drawings ‘sign off’
We won the order based on our pricing, lead time and experience in wetcast manufacture. Our wetcast product is a highly cost-effective alternative to natural stone, can be cast into specific shapes and designs, and is able to be colour matched to natural stone
It is also one of our strongest products and where the requirement is for a structural, self-supporting or load-bearing product, steel reinforcement can be added to further enhance its load-bearing capabilities.
For more information about our wetcast stone products click here