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Tom Russell wins baby boomer housing contest

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Retirement home developer McCarthy & Stone reveals winner and finalists in competition to re-imagine housing for the over-55s

Bristol-based Tom Russell Architects has seen off a gaggle of up-and-coming practices to win the RIBA Competition to design ‘pioneering housing’ for those aged 55 and over.

The firm beat Metropolitan Workshop offshoot AU Studio, London’s Inglis Badrashi Loddo Architects, Sheffield-based waparchitects, and Living Space Architects with Hilary Lawson from Exeter to land the Re-imagine Ageing competition.

Backed by retirement home developer McCarthy & Stone, the contest attracted entries from nearly 120 UK and Irish practices, with competitors asked to design ‘a new concept’ in retirement living for the baby boomer generation.

Describing Tom Russell’s Inside Out Outside In concept, judge Robert Sakula of Ash Sakula Architects, said: ‘This proposal, with its elegant layout and intelligent balance of privacy and community, really advances the debate as to how older people want to live. It’s a beautiful scheme and a worthy winner.’

McCarthy & Stone set a guideline cost of approximately £1,184/m2 and earmarked a ‘prime tree-lined 0.96-hectare site’ 200m from the town centre of Bishop Waltham in Hampshire. The developer said that it was ‘now looking to work’ with Tom Russell Architects to make its ‘vision a reality’.

Winner: Tom Russell Architects

Winner: Tom Russell Architects’ proposals

A statement from McCarthy & Stone in response to criticisms the winning scheme won’t be built on the contest site:

‘This competition has already proved to be an important milestone in challenging pre-conceptions around housing for people in their later years. The response from those involved during and after the competition was very positive and we were delighted with the quality of entries, some of which even challenged our own thinking about providing inspirational housing for our ageing population.

We were so impressed we immediately retained the services of the winners

‘We were so impressed with their quality of thinking that we immediately retained the services of the winners, Tom Russell Associates.  It remains our intention to engage them to build their design, either wholly or in part, on an appropriate site. The practice will also benefit from the significant prestige of receiving this RIBA accolade. Further, it is likely that we will work with a number of the other architects when future needs arise.  We shall be proud to announce these engagements in due course.

‘Contests offer us the perfect avenue to examine new market propositions with the experts in the field, so we would certainly consider running something similar in future should we feel that the sector would benefit from it. We were delighted with the response to the competition and look forward to working with the architectural profession to turn these concepts and ideas into reality.’

A statement from Tom Russell:

‘What interested us most about this competition was the opportunity to fundamentally rethink housing for a new generation of older people.  This wasn’t a one-off build project – it was the chance to work with a national retirement developer to develop new ideas and practices. 

It is irrelevant whether our entry is built at that exact site

‘The site featured in the competition was a vehicle for testing new ideas and theories. At the end of the day, it is sort of irrelevant whether our entry is built at that exact site, it’s all about challenging design concepts and utilising the ideas.

“We are very excited about winning this competition.  We believe it offers real prospects for not only getting visionary product built but also opening the debate about housing for older people, and in fact we are already working with McCarthy & Stone on several other projects.’

‘Competitions like this do involve a lot of work, but they offer a fantastic opportunity for architects which isn’t just about financial gain, but the chance to expand their portfolio and gain experience in new sectors and types of building that they haven’t been exposed to before.’

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