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Shelter From The Storm by Holland Harvey Architects

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A homeless shelter centred around a community café and kitchen. This project features a welcoming palate of materials and colours to emphasise comfort and homeliness. Photography by Nicholas Worley.

01 HollandHarvey ShelterFromTheStorm by Nicholas Worley

Shelter From The Storm is the only non-government-funded homeless shelter providing temporary accommodation for the most vulnerable in London.

The brief was to convert a disused local store into a multipurpose building providing a 38-bed homeless shelter by night and community café by day, available for hire and intended to indirectly facilitate engagement with the homeless. 

At the heart of the design brief was the question: ‘How can design improve the rehabilitation of the most vulnerable in our society?’

In that way, the design was led by the core philosophy of the shelter of sharing meals and cooking together as the starting point of a guest’s transformational journey in the shelter.

In response, we positioned the kitchen at the centre, with other spaces radiating out. Communal tables are arranged around the kitchen, meaning the volunteers making meals have a direct connection with those eating them.

Particular sensitivity was required for the experience of a new guest coming into the shelter. It was important to create a warm and protected environment for people who have likely had recent trauma.

Materials selection, scale, and sensitivity were key to creating a homely yet robust shelter that would stand the test of time.

The charity required the project to be delivered at speed and under a constrained budget. This required the design team to think creatively about how to source and use in-kind donations of materials and fittings to bring together the final result.

Jonathan Harvey, founding director, Holland Harvey Architects

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Project data

Start on site February 2019
Completion May 2019
Gross internal floor area 399m²
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Holland Harvey Architects
Client Shelter From The Storm
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultant Hoare Lea
Quantity surveyor Ennismore
Project manager Ennismore 
CDM co-ordinator Holland Harvey Architects
Planning consultant Planning Potential
Approved building inspector Quadrant
Main contractor Mica Projects
CAD software used Vectorworks
Predicted design life 15 years

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Architect’s choices

Careful choices of materials and products were considered in order to align the design with the project’s social objectives. Engineered oak boards were laid throughout the main dining and social spaces to provide a sense of warmth, solidity and quality.

Warm, square ceramic tiles were chosen to emphasise the kitchen as a place of hearty home cooking, while also providing identity and robustness. The same format of tile was used in a number of other areas, changing the colour to provide distinction while maintaining coherence throughout the scheme.

Where lots of tiles were needed in the bathroom, we inverted the strategy to help reduce cost, using affordable white tiles paired with dark grout and sage green walls and cubicles.

Jonathan Harvey, founding director, Holland Harvey Architects

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Informed by the shelter’s purpose, we set about developing a material selection that could help contribute to the charity’s work of empowering the homeless.

Guests that enter the space should feel at home, offered dignity, privacy and a sense of ownership wherever possible. 

Shelters are often perceived by the homeless as part of ‘the system’, so finding a material palette that would avoid an institutional feel was paramount. Every design decision was highly sensitive and aimed to make the shelter feel welcoming and homely, treading a tricky line between domestic familiarity and commercial-grade robustness.

To do this we used a minimal palette of materials, carefully composed against a rough, exposed existing shell, an affordable way to offer a coherent and unified feel.

Wherever we made a new insertion we opted for robust, yet colorful, wall tiles offset against a warm timber floor and existing brick walls. 

We worked with the supplier of the bathroom cubicles to detail a bespoke channel at their base to afford maximum privacy to the guests. We chose a composite aluminum and pine framed window and door system for a domestic finish to the interior.

Externally, burgundy aluminum frames give both a robust lifespan and an easy-to-identify entrance to the shelter, where signage could not be employed.

Jonathan Harvey, founding director, Holland Harvey

Selected products 

23 HollandHarvey ShelterFromTheStorm by Nicholas Worley

30 HollandHarvey ShelterFromTheStorm by Nicholas Worley

17 HollandHarvey ShelterFromTheStorm by Nicholas Worley

18 HollandHarvey ShelterFromTheStorm by Nicholas Worley

Engineered oak boards
Zuna, Rustic , HW9504 Zuna, Rustic
Café, lounge, meeting, reception, counselling

Terracotta tiles
Grestec Tiles
Rubix, QRP37539, satin
Kitchen counter, walls and surrounds 

Green tiles to washrooms 
Grestec Tiles
Cesano, YC5466
Shower cubicles, lower datum

External tiles
Solus Tiles
5QNA349 Burgundy, Satin
Window surrounds externally   

White tiles to washrooms
Solus Tiles
Bright 5HTR506
Washroom walls and cladding to vanity unit  

Toilet and shower cubicles
Bushboard Washrooms
Sage BB325

Kitchen safety floor 
Altro Stronghold 30, Skyline K30332
Kitchen and wash-up area

Bathroom floor
Altro Aquarius, Swan AQI2012 LRV75
Showers and WCs

Small over-counter pendant lighting
Graphite pendant with Olbo bulb
Pendants over the kitchen tops

Globe pendant
Graphite pendant with Olbo bulb
Throughout café

Washroom wall lights
Dyke & Dean
Ceramic angled wall light frosted

External windows
Rationel Windows
All external windows




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