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London's first co-housing scheme completes

Work has completed on this £1.6million project by Henley Halebrown Rorrison (HHbR) which is being hailed as London’s first ‘co-housing’ scheme

Built on a backland plot in Stoke Newington, the 795m2 Copper Lane project is laid out as a cluster around a central space under which is a number of communal facilities.

These include a workshop and laundry room which are shared by the surrounding six households.

Construction began on the scheme, which sits in the gardens of Victorian terraced houses, last year (2013).

Lower ground floor plan - Springdale Gardens by Henley Halebrown Rorrison - a co-housing scheme on a backland plot in Hackney

Lower ground floor plan - Springdale Gardens by Henley Halebrown Rorrison - a co-housing scheme on a backland plot in Hackney


Simon Henley of Henley Halebrown Rorrison

‘Architects’ skills come to their fore when looking at how building typologies evolve to suit the way people live. We have seen this through a series of events in our North London co-housing project.

‘Six families came together with a desire to find an affordable way to live in London and reintroduce a sense of lost communality in their day-to-day lives.  They opted for cohousing as a way to address these needs. 

‘This means that in addition to their independent homes, as a part of their development, they share a utility room, workshop and a hall.  It was clear to us from the beginning that cohousing, or housing generally, is not just about creating what to often is hermetic residential design. It is about introducing many facets of architecture to create a building that can be as private or public as desired.

‘The social life of a co-housing scheme plays out at the scale of the table, the hall, the court and the street – each offering another threshold between home and the city.  It is this very aspect of communality that enables cohousing to be a model solution in responding to the housing crisis. Homes can be marginally smaller – spare bedrooms can be shared, as can utility rooms and childrens’ play space. Shared spare bedrooms alone reduce unit sizes by about 20 per cent.’

Previous story (AJ 08.02.13)

Work begins on HHbR’s London co-housing scheme

[FIRST LOOK + PLANS] Construction has started on this £1.6 million ‘co-housing’ scheme on a backland plot, in Stoke Newington, London, designed by Henley Halebrown Rorrison (HHbR).

The 795m2 Springdale Gardens project is laid out as a cluster, with a central space under which is a number of communal facilities, including a workshop and laundry room, shared by the surrounding six households.

The plot is being dug out by 1.2m creating a sunken lower ground floor. The quartet of three-storey homes will be clad in untreated vertical timber boards and the two two-storey houses in brick.  

Simon Henley, principal at the practice said: ‘The philosophy is to reduce the household’s collective impact on the environment in the construction of their homes and in their daily lives. The performance of the building fabric - insulation, air tightness, and heat recovery ventilation - plays a vital role without resorting to expensive and unproven technology. The only renewables are solar thermal panels.’

The development, which features a shared food-producing garden, is due to complete before the end of the year (2013).



Comment by Sally Lewis

This scheme could inspire a sprinkling of housing gems across London’s inner suburbs. There are plenty of small pockets of land, locked inside irregular shaped perimeter blocks, which simply need vision and excellently responsive design to be transformed into perfectly appropriate sites for more and better homes.

Sitting among the gardens of Victorian terrace houses in Hackney, the co-housing scheme bears no resemblance to the faceless housing development so feared by those with a backyard. With their mass broken down by varied roof treatments and a sensitive combination of brick and timber cladding, the cluster of buildings creates the impression of something interesting, but unobtrusive, happening at the bottom of the garden.

The arrangement of building form celebrates the centre of the site, creating a communal area that will be the heartbeat of the project. This will be tested by the residents’ genuine commitment to neighbourliness. If goodwill runs out, there are no private gardens to escape to, although the arrangement of windows and openings in carefully minimizes overlooking and protects privacy within the home.  

This is a scheme to watch. But with all the crisp architecture and emphasis on co-housing, where are the people? With the end users identified, surely this is a wonderful opportunity to explore the real personality of the place. The illustrations are devoid of human activity, and we are presented with pure architecture. A minor hiccup in a scheme that beckons so bravely into the future.

Sally Lewis is founding director of Stitch, a member of the Newham Design Review Panel, and author of ‘Front to back : a design agenda for urban housing’.

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