Shelter from the Storm erases homeless boundaries

Words:
Hugh Pearman

Homeless find sensitivity domesticity and a warm welcome at Shelter from the Storm, a supermarket converted to a temporary refuge

A homeless shelter with a cafe ambience.
A homeless shelter with a cafe ambience. Credit: Nicholas Worley

Building: Shelter from the Storm
Location: North London
Architect: Holland Harvey
Building type: Homeless refuge and community café

 

Shelter from the Storm is a remarkable homeless shelter and community café.  Young practice Holland Harvey has made what was previously a dingy failed supermarket in a 1970s north London council estate into a thoroughly welcoming place. ‘We had to understand the mindset of a person entering a shelter, as a guest, for the very first time. Sensitivity, domesticity and warmth were key to this project,’ says Jonathan Harvey.

Once commissioned they had just four weeks to design and get planning approval for it, Harvey working with his colleague Chloe Anderson and his SFTS clients Sheila Scott and Matt Conlon. This is good design on a budget, with a kitchen and community café at its heart.  The discreet supervised guest entrance at one side of the building provides a reassuring introduction and an interview room while the community café entrance at the other side (the original supermarket frontage) is inviting.

  • How the old supermarket was ingeniously rethought.
    How the old supermarket was ingeniously rethought. Credit: HHA
  • Basic but good - the shower and washroom area.
    Basic but good - the shower and washroom area. Credit: Nicholas Worley
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The male and female dormitories (38 beds at present, divided into four-bed sections) are basic but comfortable, with individual storage. There are good individual showers and support spaces, with the right degree of privacy afforded within what has to be a communal facility. Finishes and fittings are appropriately tough, secure and safe but don’t have that look about them: there’s a surprisingly upmarket feel.

  • A new facility that welcomes in the local community.
    A new facility that welcomes in the local community. Credit: Nicholas Worley
  • Meeting and event room has large window through to cafe area.
    Meeting and event room has large window through to cafe area. Credit: Nicholas Worley
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Our MacEwen judges were, as you’d hope, impressed by this example of enlightened change of use.  As Kathy MacEwen put it: ‘What a great idea – it’s a community café that the homeless also use. It’s about not knowing who’s homeless or who isn’t when you’re in there.’  BDP’s Kathryn Tombling observed:‘‘It’s a dignified and lovely environment to be in.’ And Cecilie Sachs Olsen added: ‘This is a structural way of embracing rather than dealing with homelessness. It’s a much more holistic approach. Integrating and erasing boundaries, it shows a lot of care.’

 

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Credits

Client Shelter From The Storm
Structural engineer Price and Myers
Services engineer Hoare Lea
Hospitality consultant Ennismore