Marcia Kirlew of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham explains: “All of the new homes were required to be fully wheelchair accessible and designed to meet the specific requirements of the future residents.
The developments were designed to comply with current national and local Planning Policy Guidance, including the Local Development Framework, HCA Design Quality Standards, Lifetime Homes, Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 and with the stipulation that 25% of energy was to be provided by renewable sources. As some of the first capital funded Local Authority elderly persons housing being built for a generation, it is critical that the developments set a high benchmark for future housing within the Borough.
“All the residents of the new development have downsized from a larger property, in some cases the occupants are moving after 40 years or more. A number of tenants have given three or four bedroom houses back to the council, and in some cases these properties have undergone adaptions.
“The releasing of these properties back to the council means that different sectors of our community – the elderly, residents requiring family housing and those residents who are in need of an adapted property – may all be catered for since the construction of these houses.
“These properties are special as they have been built with the residents’ future needs in mind. Should they, at a later stage in their lives need to use a wheelchair, the resident will not need to leave their present home as it can cater for the use of a wheelchair within the property. As all properties are fully accessible, this will allow the resident to have full use of their home. This will give them a better quality of family life for the entire tenancy of the property.”
The design intent was derived by studying the rich tradition of housing for the elderly and the English Almshouse. The key elements of this traditional housing type were applied to create a development that had a rich architectural character whilst meeting the needs of the elderly today.
There are two key components of classical Almshouses. Firstly, the housing surrounds a communal garden or landscaped courtyard. These landscaped courtyards are simple areas of lawn and mature specimen trees. Secondly, the architecture is of an intimate human scale. The dwellings are typically only one or two storeys and are given a personal scale by the window fenestration at ground floor level, forming a connection to the communal spaces.
Sense of place
Adopting the conventional Almshouse layout, a communal landscape garden was proposed, that forms the heart of the site and is surrounded by mostly single storey accommodation, creating a sense of community and encouraging in the residents a sense of ownership over the public.
As a manifestation of Placemaking, the configuration of the development seeks to bring a sense of place to an area otherwise lost in urban anonymity. The landscape design integrates high quality materials and small scale planting of an intimate measure to soften the boundaries between the communal and private gardens. In extracting the key architectural components of the Almshouse model, Patel Taylor developed a housing typology that interpreted their traditional character in a contemporary manner, whilst responding to the client’s brief. The houses were designed to be small in both mass and dimensions, and the L-shaped plan provided accommodation around a small private courtyard. The courtyards are typically south-facing and are punctured by a timber gate and trellis which provide the residents with a visual connection to the gardens whilst retaining a sense of privacy. The single bay window and chimney create an impression of domesticity within, and help to identify the individual homes.
The developments contrast hard external elevations with softer interiors to suggest security whilst dissolving physical boundaries between dwellings to promote a sense of community. The houses are well insulated and have been constructed of high quality traditional robust materials to give a sense of permanence. The dwellings are energy efficient achieving Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 and have integrated photovoltaic cells that provides a renewable energy source to each dwelling.