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Mae reveals Westminster housing for elderly scheme

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Alex Ely beats off competition from PRP and Maccreanor Lavington to win split-site scheme for Westminster Council and CityWest Homes

The competition to design a new elderly person housing scheme and healthcare hub project in Lisson Grove, north-west London, has been won by mae.

Working with Atkins, Alex Ely’s practice beat PRP and Maccreanor Lavington to land the split-site scheme for CityWest Homes on behalf of Westminster City Council.

Residents living in the soon-to-be-demolished 1970s Penn House will be moved into a new 53-home building designed to meet Housing for an Ageing Population Panel for Innovation (HAPPI) recommendations. Once decanted, the building will be replaced by a 6,000m2 medical and community centre together with 1,300m2 of ‘enterprise space’ and another 38 flats and seven houses.

The eight-storey elderly housing ‘tower’ will be built on a tight, triangular plot and features 55m2 apartments all with external balconies.

According to Ely, the rooms have been designed to be flexible and can be subdivided for visitors. He added: ‘The communal areas are critical for people living on their own and we have tried to allow space for sociability.’

The practice hopes to submit plans in May for a start on site in early 2014.

Model showing the two sites - HAPPI housing on the left, healthcare hub on the right

Model showing the two sites - HAPPI housing on the left, healthcare hub on the right


Comment: More Homes, Better Homes expert Neil Deely on Mae’s winning design

Lisson Green Estate was designed in the late ’60s, built in the early ’70s and was the subject of a 10-year regeneration plan, culminating in 2007. The estate is quite typical of inner London local authority building stock. It is fairly well maintained but lacks a sense of place or legibility, despite being close to the Grand Union Canal and Church Street Market.

Mae’s HAPPI housing scheme cleverly utilises a strip of SLOAP (space left over after planning) between Lisson Grove and Bernhardt Crescent. The 5m-high level change between streets is straddled with a one to two storey-high plinth that presents an intimate and active frontage to Lisson Grove. A first floor, south-west facing residents’ roof terrace is accessed via a sunny perambulatory. In housing generally, and especially for older people, circulation is overlooked as an important social space.

In the main eight-storey body of the building, one-bedroom/two-person apartments are arranged in pin-wheel format, providing important dual aspect and solar access to the apartments. Internally, the dwellings have well-proportioned hallways, adequate space for storing possessions and good-sized living spaces that offer the ability to install a single day bed. For many who have spent their lives on the estate, this housing would offer a convivial and humane way of living.

Neil Deely is director of Metropolitan Workshop and a member of CABE’s National Design Review Panel and the London Legacy Development Corporation Quality Review Panel



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