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Coffey Architects completes its largest scheme to date for PegasusLife

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The ‘Moor’s Nook’ retirement living scheme in Woking, Surrey, provides 34 one- and two-bedroom flats that wrap around a garden

Occupying the site of a derelict industrial laundry facility, the four floors of apartments are arranged in a ‘horseshoe’, with each dual-aspect unit overlooking a central courtyard and the town.

The design revolves around both this residents’ courtyard and a ‘city courtyard’ located at the north entrance that mediates the transition from public to private space. This area, with a flowering garden and built-in benches, leads to a brick colonnade that becomes a ‘cloistered walkway’ at the courtyard’s edge, connecting the reception, staff offices and guest suite as well as the block’s single stair and lift.

Court 4 Moor Courts Coffey Architects Photo Credit Phil Coffey

Moor Courts by Coffey Architects

At ground level each apartment has a small private garden, and upper levels have extra-wide decking. The large overhang of the zig-zag pitched roof eaves is intended to create a feeling of privacy to the decking below, which is generous enough to encourage personalisation or to even be treated as extensions of living space. At first floor a common lounge and kitchen open out to a shared balcony overlooking the courtyard.

From south to north the scheme gradually steps up, with the north-east corner having views across the nearby cricket field. Flats on the top floor all have double-height ceilings with dual skylights.

Visually, standing-seam zinc roofs, thick brick elevations and a warehouse-style silhouette are a nod to the site’s industrial heritage. The segmented appearance, delineated by individual pitched roofs, breaks the mass of the block into a series of individual homes, as well as referencing adjacent terraces.

Coffey Architects Moor Courts Exploded Axonometric

Moor Courts by Coffey Architects

Architect’s view

Our challenge was to deliver a building which embodied a sense of community, individuality and homeliness, while setting a new standard in this sector for design quality. These themes helped inform the detailed design of our building and the ultimate decision to use a courtyard typology.

‘Moor’s Nook’, therefore, is arranged in a U-shaped plan around a central residents’ courtyard, from which all apartments are accessed. This configuration creates activated social spaces with perimeter seating, offers enclosed garden space landscaped with local plant varieties from the nearby common, and has provided us with the opportunity to design 100 per cent double-aspect flats. The alternative was to develop a plan that used double-loaded corridors, which we try to avoid. We would have ended up with a wide, L-shaped building with single-aspect flats – some facing the industrial lot. Instead, the courtyard affords us the opportunity to reclaim ‘deck’ access as a positive in design and create long views with increased daylight through all the units.

Our generous balconies provide additional outdoor amenity spaces which residents can personalise with furniture and planting. The balconies also create a sense of home, with overhanging eaves and extended thresholds. They reinforce neighbourliness, as homeowners have their own front door entrance and will appropriate their external space and serendipitously encounter their neighbours. This has already been observed with the residents who live there now.

Chris McHale, project architect, Coffey Architects

Project data

Start on site June 2016
Completion May 2018
Gross internal floor area 3,425m²
Form of contract Design and build
Architect Coffey Architects
Client PegasusLife
Structural engineer Symmetrys 
M&E consultant Milieu Consult
Landscape architect Camlins
Planning consultant Barton Willmore
Quantity surveyor PMP Consultants
Main contractor Stepnell

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