‘Housing as impetus for building community’
More's Meadow Almshouses, Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire
Haysom Ward Miller Architects and Emily Haysom Landscape Architecture for Great Shelford Village Charity
Contract cost: £4.4m
Cambridge is an exponentially expanding city, surrounded by necessary greenbelt. However, in local villages such as Great Shelford there is still high demand for homes that are affordable. The Village Charity campaigned for planning consent for the development of 21 modern almshouses on a greenbelt exception site (3.5ha owned by the charity), which was granted on the basis of the support of villagers. The trustees, all volunteers, led the community engagement and worked closely with the Parish Council and other interested parties. ‘This project is really opened up to the community,’ said Stacey Barry. ‘It is also an interesting example of development and procurement.’
The resulting development is a mix of one, two and three bedroom homes arranged in three curved terraces surrounding a central green; this accompanies landscaping to six acres of charity-owned land, the provision of allotments, communal gardens and enhanced public access. The site sits on the edge of the village and comprises a meadow with 250 new native trees.
The terraces curve in plan to enclose the car-free green, and curving in section with the intention of achieving a sinuous, landscape-inspired effect. The homes enjoy high environmental standards, including MVHR, ASHPs, triple glazing and high levels of insulation. There has been a strong emphasis on biodiversity enhancements, permeability and access for people and nature, which the judges praised.
Illustrating the heartfelt adoption of the space by the residents who now love it there, the architect said: ‘We are astonished at how alive the central green has become. The space has become a live-in play park. Children… treat the space as their own. The space is buzzing with activity and life. The success of this scheme has made us as designers realise that the buildings are not the principal designed object, but are the frame, the foil which forms the backdrop to the public realm and the community it contains and defines. This is housing as impetus for building community.’
‘The social idea of this project has merit,’ praised Je Ahn.
Isabelle Priest, managing editor, RIBA Journal (chair)
Je Ahn, founding director, Studio Weave
Stacey Barry, architect, BDP
Kathy MacEwen, planner and daughter of Anni and Malcolm MacEwen
Alex Scott-Whitby, founding director, Scott Whitby Studio