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MacEwen 2024 shortlist: Citizens House, Sydenham, London

‘So many letters of support for the application were received that Lewisham planners initially suspected fraud’

Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio.
Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio. Credit: Archio

Citizens House, Sydenham, London
Archio for London Community Land Trust
Contract cost: £2.5m
GIA: 667m2

Citizens House provides 11 genuinely and permanently affordable homes for local people, as the first Community Land Trust in London using London CLT’s affordability model. Started as a campaign by local people through Lewisham Citizens, part of Citizens UK, it enables communities and local leaders to come together with the power and strategy to enact real change.

Concerned about the lack of affordable homes in their area, residents decided to do something about it. The scheme provides homes at 65% of market value to residents on lower incomes, who would otherwise be forced out of Lewisham to buy.

Archio was selected by residents and community members through a public workshop in 2016.  Following an extensive co-design process, a three-to-four storey design was developed facing onto a landscaped courtyard with community cohesion embedded into its design, encouraging new and existing residents to interact and integrate over time. Staggered balconies allow residents to talk to each other across the main facade, and wide walkways to the rear allow space for meeting with neighbours and for children to play.

  • Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio.
    Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio. Credit: Archio
  • Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio.
    Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio. Credit: FRENCH+TYE
  • Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio.
    Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio. Credit: FRENCH+TYE
  • Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio.
    Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio. Credit: FRENCH+TYE
  • Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio.
    Citizens House, Sydenham, London by Archio. Credit: Archio
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The building opens up an existing pedestrian route into a new shared public space. This was co-designed with residents to facilitate events such as the estate summer barbecue. Estate residents put a lot of trust in the design process from the outset. ‘You have to design with the community to get the best out of the project,’ notes Archio director Mellis Haward. ‘They quickly grasped the benefits they were likely to achieve and the compromises that would need to be made.’ In the end, so many letters of support for the application were received that Lewisham planners initially suspected fraud.

Located on a constrained site of former backland garages, the building’s profile steps to address the change in height with surrounding housing and is carefully placed to fit into the estate’s existing layout, while minimising its impact on neighbours and a primary school. With a construction cost of £2.5 million, Citizens House was funded by £1.1 million in grants through the Mayor of London’s £38 million Community Housing Fund, the Big Issue Invest London Housing Fund supported by the Greater London Authority, and London CLT community shareholders.

See more on MacEwen shortlisted projects and architecture for the common good 

 

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