Homes into which local residents can downsize
RIBA National Award winner 2021
RIBA London Regional Award winner 2021
Peter Barber Architects for BeFirst /London Borough of Barking
Contract value: undisclosed
Built on the site of a strip of grass separating two roads previously considered unsuitable for development, North Street housing is, in fact, a picturesque island terrace of 14 ‘cottages’. Twelve of the dwellings have been thoughtfully designed as single bedroom units to tempt downsizers from larger units in the adjacent local authority housing. Each house has its own front door and entrance courtyard or front garden, which not only lends a sense of ownership but facilitates dual- or triple-aspect rooms at ground and first floor. All homes are designed to the GLA/National Space Standards as a minimum, one unit has the benefit of a roof terrace at first floor, and the two, two-bed units are designed to be fully wheelchair-accessible.
The careful massing of the cottages with their hit-and-miss courtyards keeps them private and avoids unwelcome overlooking with adjacent buildings. While the construction materials of brick and timber might be conventional, the details are not. A playful use of outsized brick arches and variety in fenestration shows that social housing need not compromise on good design. The light and airy internal rooms are generous and full of delight for the occupants, as are the barrel-vaulted bedroom ceilings, which also reduce the impact of the roofline on neighbouring properties. This neatly-designed, considered island of houses stands out as a gem among its neighbours; discrete, delightful – and silently radical.