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COLLIERS GARDENS Architect: Penoyre & Prasad Housebuilder: Brunelcare All too often public-sector sheltered housing takes inspiration from Prisoner Cell Block H. It has long, narrow, poorly lit corridors, dreary communal lounges and bedrooms that are barely large enough to swing a zimmer frame. Penoyre & Prasad's bold yet sensitive Colliers Gardens scheme, completed in January 2006 for Bristol-based Brunelcare, shatters ossified approaches to geriatric accommodation.

While unavoidably sprawling, the development in Fishponds, Bristol, has the reassuring feel of a rambling contemporary family home rather than the bleakness of a large-scale institution.

The two-storey wings of residents' ats, for example, are neatly hidden behind a crisp white concrete front elevation, concealing the building's true scale from the street. What make the scheme a winner, however, are the ingeniously configured public spaces, designed to evoke the familiarity of a high street or hotel shopping mall. Materials used externally are continued internally, including render, timber cladding, galvanised metal and large oor tiles, accentuating the high-street ambience.

Traditional - and not so traditional - services, including a hairdresser, a restaurant, a therapy room, an IT suite and an electric-buggy garage, face into spacious naturally lit aisles inviting residents to linger and chat. The groundfloor layout is deliberately styled to encourage non-residents in the community to visit and use the facilities, thereby increasing residents' contact with the neighbourhood.

The judges were impressed by the generously proportioned ats and the equally spacious balconies overlooking landscaped gardens. Penoyre & Prasad has clearly eschewed the trend for mean 'Juliet-style' verandas in a move to increase residents' enjoyment of garden spaces, they said.

Built for a modest £5.5 million, Colliers Gardens was the only public-sector scheme entered for the best retirement development category. It is one of 10 UK projects picked by CABE and the Housing Corporation as beacons of excellence in the rented sheltered-housing arena.

LINGHAM COURT Architect: Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects Housebuilder: Metropolitan Housing Trust

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