Strong connections between the public and private realms are made at a pair of affordable housing schemes in east London by Bell Phillips Architects
Florence Road and Pitchford Street by Bell Phillips Architects form part of a larger residential development in Newham, east London, aimed at providing high-quality and sustainable affordable housing. The 17 schemes – six of which are being designed by BPA – are located on brownfield sites and focus on housing for larger families, with primarily three-bedroom units.
Florence Road replaces a cul-de-sac with a single-sided mews comprising seven council houses. This ‘realignment’ of the urban grain is intended to preserve existing pedestrian and cycle paths, as well as improve connections to public transport and local amenities, including Queens Road market.
Pitchford Street is located in Stratford, where the primarily Victorian grain of traditional terraced housing meets the commercial bustle and large-scale of the Olympic Park. The site, which was previously occupied by derelict garage, frequently attracted anti-social behaviour and fly tipping. Incorporating a welcoming frontage, the new six-unit scheme returns activity and greenery to the area.
Florence Road section
Florence Road ground, first and second-floor plans
The house designs are identical across the two sites, with an equal value placed on both the internal and external spaces. Large street-facing kitchen windows encourage community interaction and passive surveillance. Similarly, the front garden of each house incorporates low-level planting, adding texture to the streetscape and providing defensible space in front of the covered entrance. This not only improves security and safety without compromising privacy, but also provides each tenant with a sense of ownership and control over their home.
Florence Road rear elevation
Large windows are combined with open-plan ground-floor spaces, ensuring good daylighting, layout flexibility, and a strong connection between inside and out. The windows also provide the front elevations with a distinct rhythm, complementing the simple brick cladding, as well as the scale and style of the local typology. Yellow London stock bricks were specified in recognition of their vernacular significance, allowing the scheme to fit easily within its context.
Each house features a light shaft that illuminates what would otherwise be a dark circulation space. This make the properties appear larger, lighter and friendlier, says the architect. Following successful prototyping at Pitchford Street and Florence Road, the light shafts will be used across the remaining four sites, with adaptations to accommodate changes of scale, proportion and orientation as required.
The first-floor plan incorporates a pair of twin bedrooms, with a double-bedroom located on the second-floor linked to a roof terrace. Corresponding to the heights of the dominant residential typology, the terraces receive additional privacy as the upper floor of each house is set back. Designed on a diagonal, the terraces are intended to create a dynamic relationship with the streetscape, while remaining private from their immediate neighbours. The diagonal terrace walls are painted different colours, adding visual interest and providing a sense of place. Each house is designed to allow flexibility of layout, creating elements of individuality while also adhering to Lifetime Home standards.
The key difference between the two sites is that a corner house on Florence Road is designed specifically for wheelchair access and arranged around a covered central courtyard. This bears similarities to the purpose of the light shafts, but also connects to a south-facing outdoor space. At two storeys high, the design limits vertical movement and focuses on generous circulation spaces that can be easily adapted to tenants’ needs.
With regards to sustainability, the houses are designed to minimise energy consumption, with a focus on orientation, insulation and airtightness. Outside, a cement-based weatherboard replaces timber cladding in an effort to improve durability and reduce maintenance requirements.