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First look

Stolon Studio completes ‘sociable’ housing development of residential and live/work units

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Kaolin Court in Forest Hill, London consists of four houses, two live/work duplexes and three apartments set around a shared courtyard garden 

The brief was to redevelop a light industrial site as a residential scheme that would appeal to families and professionals.

The scheme, for the small private developer House of Tuesday, has its built elements arranged around the boundary to the site, maximising the central shared amenity space.

The sculptural forms of the blocks were designed around a 15º geometry, helping maintain outlook from neighbours in plan and maximise sunlight into the courtyard in section. The forms are softened by planting, reflecting pools and the tiled facing to the façades. 

Kaolin court©robert barker stolon studio family housing

Kaolin court©robert barker stolon studio family housing

Source: Robert Barker

The front block is divided in two with a pedestrian route through to the homes at the rear. This cut is also designed to allow morning sun to stretch far into the rear of the site. The design is intended to create a transition between public and private space, leading off the street to a central courtyard – designed as a place to relax, socialise and play – off which each house has its own courtyard.

Overall the design of the landscaping, ‘neighbouryard’ and reflection pools are intended to enhance the well-being and ‘sociability’ of residents.

Kaolin court©robert barker stolon studio reflection

Kaolin court©robert barker stolon studio reflection

Source: Robert Barker

Architect’s view

The concept of sociable housing, which we first tested at Forest Mews, has been scaled up for Kaolin Court to provide 4 houses, 2 live/work maisonettes, and 3 flats around a central courtyard. The interchange between public and private space has been planned as a hierarchy from the most public street-front, through to the most private spaces in the homes. The central courtyard is a semi-public space that can be enjoyed by any of the Kaolin Court residents. The houses have semi-private external spaces for their own use, which are linked to the shared courtyard. Reflecting these different spaces, the ground plan of the houses have two aspects. One aspect is the more open picture window from the kitchen/dining space, separated from the shared courtyard by a reflecting pool. The other aspect is from the living room where glazed doors open onto a sheltered patio garden. Each house plan is rotated and offset, to create seclusion and openness without overlooking.

Robert Barker, architect, Stolon Studio

Stolon kaolinct drawing 02

Stolon kaolinct drawing 02

Source: Stolon Studio

Site plan / Ground floor plan

Client’s view

Having visited Robert and Jessica’s first project, Forest Mews we were eager to work with them both to create something similarly special – which they call ’sociable housing’. This is our first shared space development and it has exceeded all our expectations.

The clear sense of community generated through design, and Robert and Jessica’s clear passion for shared spaces has created something really special. Seeing the residents and their children enjoy the project is a moving experience, and has made us question why other developers aren’t creating communities in this way.

The feedback we have had from residents has been amazing. We also asked how the shared space worked during the lockdown – and this is from the residents:

’It’s easy to feel disconnected at the best of times, but being here, never have my husband and I felt more connected to the environment and community we live in…”

“The kids, who do not understand social distancing, get the nourishment from each other essential to their development. If you were to look through the gate, it would look like a utopia which is a stark contrast to the dystopian time we are living in. I feel grateful every day that we live where we do. And hope that this model of living is an inspiration for future housing developments where community is deemed an essential, not an outcome.’

Jay Patel, House of Tuesday

Stolon kaolinct drawing 04

Stolon kaolinct drawing 04

Source: Stolon Studio


Project Data

Start on site September 2017
Completion date April 2019
Gross internal floor area 1000 sqm 
Form of contract or procurement route Traditional JCT Intermediate
Construction cost £2.8m
Construction cost per m2 £2,800
Architect Robert Barker (for Stolon Studio and Baca)
Client House of Tuesday
Structural engineer Edge Structures
M&E consultant Prospero Projects
QS Pulse Consulting
Drainage Engineer Edge Structures & Stolon Studio
Landscape consultant Stolon Studio
Interior Design Stolon Studio
CDM coordinator Robin Bartlett
Approved building inspector Salus
Main contractor Meridian Construction
Timber Frame Turner Timber Frame
CAD software used BIM

Environmental performance data

Annual mains water consumption <110 litres/occupant/day
Airtightness at 50pa 3.44 m3/h.m2
Heating and hot water load 41.5 kwh/m2/yr
Overall area-weighted u-value 0.18 w/m2k
Annual CO2 emissions 13.63 KgCO2eq/m2

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