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Peabody reveals 20-strong shortlist for small projects panel

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Exciting mix of emerging practices, small firms and well-known names on shortlist including Hall McKnight, Coffey Architects and Adam Khan

Among the firms chosen by the housing association from more than 300 competition entries are Stirling Prize 2013 mid-lister Hall McKnight, AJ 2012 Small Projects finalist Denizen Works and 2009 Manser Medal-winning Pitman Tozer.

Peabody, which is aiming to ramp up its output to 1,000 new homes a year, wants to appoint between six to eight practices to work on projects below the OJEU threshold.

The final panellists will typically work on schemes featuring 20 homes or under.

Describing the selection process Claire Bennie, Peabody development director and AJ Women in Architecture 2014 awards judge, said: ‘The choice of 20 shortlisted firms was made difficult by the extremely high standard of entries.

‘The submissions all had something special, combining visual excitement, creative thought and a genuine engagement with the challenge of housing.’

Three London sites have already been set aside for the architects to work on – two in Hackney and one in Tufnell Park.

The winners will be announced at the end of January.


  • Adam Khan Architects
  • Allsop Gollings
  • Amin Taha Architects
  • Birds Portchmouth Russum
  • Coffey Architects
  • David Kohn Architects
  • Daykin Marshall Studio
  • Denizen Works
  • Gort Scott Architects
  • Hall McKnight Architects
  • Jan Kattein Architects
  • Lyndon Goode Architects
  • Paul Archer Design
  • Pitman Tozer
  • Sam Causer/Geraldine Dening
  • Stephen Taylor Architects
  • Studio Octopi
  • Studio 54 Architecture
  • Urban Salon Architects
  • 5th Studio Architecture

Peabody director Claire Bennie’s ten tips for making a competition entry stand out

1) Two things: ease of opening and beauty. If it takes me two minutes to open your elaborately gaffer-taped parcel, I’ll get cross and also have less time to spend on your work, and everyone else’s. Some entries were not only easy to open, they were beautifully boxed and annotated and gave a crucial favourable early impression.

2) Check spelling – spellcheck is a wonderful thing. And at least spell my name right.

3) No rushing – A few entries were clearly very rushed, or had lost their way on one of the presentation boards through last minute lack of time. It happens. It’s always worth considering whether to enter at all under those circumstances — is it better to leave a bad impression, or none at all? Theatre and TV directors always say to send them the absolutely best draft of your first script – on no account send anything until then. They have a point.

4) Drawings and layout – with the level of graphical ability out there – including hand drawings, details, CGIs and photos – it is imperative that the page layout presents your scheme to the best advantage.

5) The site – don’t just choose the obvious site. This definitely lowers your chances of looking original.

6) Learn from mistakes – candidates were asked to discuss one particular ‘learning point’ from their submitted scheme. The practices that were really honest and said what had gone wrong and what they’d do differently next time got a big tick from me.

7) Laughing – A judicious spot of humour is important when you’re cutting your fingertips opening the 198th package. Thank you so much to the people whose funny text, small red stars or witty business cards leapt out of their entries like small jesters.

8) Practice name – What was your practice called again? Enough with the numbers, symbols and long and complicated names already.

9) Being a woman – women: where on earth are you? Have you stopped designing buildings or entering competitions? Have I woken up in the 1950s? Only 23 per cent of entries were signed by women.

10) Dining chairs – Eames. If I see another one in a photo, I think I’ll…


Previous story (AJ 19.12.13)

Hundreds bid for Peabody small projects work

Housing association Peabody has received more than 300 entries from practices vying to get onto its small projects panel

The forward-thinking group, which is aiming to ramp up its output to 1,000 new homes a year, is looking for between six to eight practices to be appointed to work on projects below the OJEU threshold. The panelists will typically work on schemes featuring 20 homes or under.

A shortlist will be announced at 8am on 10 January, with the finalists revealed on Peabody’s website (click here).  

Claire Bennie, Peabody development director said she was ‘delighted’ by the response to the call for entries. She said: ‘The evident effort and love put into the submissions was inspiring and we are thoroughly enjoying the shortlisting process.  

‘We’re excited about taking our panel forward and building beautiful homes over the next four years.  From 10 January we’ll be in touch with the shortlisted practices to discuss the next steps.’

Three London sites have already been set aside for the chosen architects to begin work on - two in Hackney and a third in Tufnell Park.

Applicants, which included practices from Holland, Italy and the US, only had to submit two A3 boards to be considered for the panel.

Previous story (AJ 16.08.13)

Peabody director: ‘If I can’t build it, it’s no use’

Jeremy Stibbe, Peabody’s new executive director for development and regeneration, sets out what he wants from architects as it ramps up its output

What have you been asked to achieve at Peabody?
I have been asked to lead Peabody’s growth plans, delivering a substantial existing pipeline and a future programme of around 1,000 new homes a year.  

I join Peabody at an incredibly exciting time. Claire Bennie and the team are already delivering some of London’s best developments. My job will be helping them turn up the volume - bigger programme, more sale homes, new housing products and, most importantly, strong investment returns.

What do you want from an architect?
Three asks.
First, a home that a resident will love: 
Good design mirrors lifestyle and creates a home that is loved. Sometimes this is one of the missed aspects of sustainability because an unloved home isn’t looked after and quickly falls into disrepair.

Wayne Hemingway successfully changed volume house builders’ view of design in the early noughties. We now have the London design standard. All architect practices care about this. Some excel. Working with Alison Brooks (along with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands) at South Kilburn has created delightful homes with a focus on usability.

Second, imagination:
Sometimes a design team can get stuck because viability, planning, local opposition or infrastructure creates a seemingly impossible problem. Over the years I have enjoyed working with many architects who have created a ‘eureka’ moment.

A recent example is a wonderful but controversial 22 storey block on the edge of the Stockwell park conservation area designed by Richard Harvey at PRP architects that secured planning approval last year against all the odds.

Third, a practical approach:
If I can’t build it, it’s no use to me! Clients need careful navigation of problems without grandstanding on ideological points. I recently had a great experience working with Peter Leiper at CZWG architects who value engineered an unviable planning permission. Together we created a genuinely improved development within the existing planning consent with better homes that are significantly cheaper to build and now on site.

A shout for small practices who can lose out in a competitive market. With small firms, senior partners can personally commit to projects from beginning to end. An example for me is Judith Tranter at TM architects who has the ability to secure and implement the permission you want without any grief. 

Are you currently looking for new talent and how do you find your architects?
Yes – in the autumn we will be advertising in the architectural press for a new architect framework including a particular ‘lot’ for smaller practices including a design competition on an exciting site.

What do you think about the current government’s attempts to drive development and the Mortgage Guarantee schemes?
CSR brings much needed investment into London which is good news. Of course there are challenges because money is tight and public investment per home remains very low. More than ever creative partnerships are needed to maintain supply of the homes London needs and Peabody is already immersed in this creative challenge. 

There is mixed reporting on demand side initiatives like ‘help to buy’. Helping households locked out of the market to access a mortgage is a good thing. Simplicity is key to access the widest range (and therefore cheapest) deals. Of course, the outcome must be a supply side increase. Empirical evidence over the next period will determine whether these initiatives should continue

Which regeneration scheme most inspires you and why?
There are so many excellent examples of regeneration like Hammarby in Stockholm and Vauban in Freiburg. However, I am going to choose a London project. This is the regeneration of Stockwell Park by Community Trust Housing and Network and is my choice because the spirit of Jane Jacobs lives on at Stockwell Park. This is genuinely grass roots. Community control, £160m inward investment, exemplar design, skateboard park, one of the world’s best graffiti walls, community shops and most of all, a safe place to live.

PRP's Stockwell Park scheme in Lambeth

PRP’s Stockwell park scheme in Lambeth for Community Trust Housing / Network Housing Group

What are the biggest challenges currently facing the organisation?
Peabody operates exclusively in London and the London market seems to be quickly forgetting 2007, cashing in on new overseas markets. This creates a dilemma for Peabody. Private sale cross subsidy now features in our development plans. However, at the same time Londoners are being priced out of the market. 

George Peabody vision was quality homes for London’s working poor. And our future plans maintain this vision with a range of housing options that help new households get a foot onto the London housing ladder.

To do this we will continue to work with our partners to create new development opportunities. Good examples include our new partnership with GLA and Mace in Elephant and Castle that will deliver a mix of 400 market rent, intermediate sale and affordable rent homes and reinvigorated plans for Thamesmead which benefits from Cross Rail bringing it closer to central London and an affordable housing option for the increasing number of people working in the capital.

Various reports show that somewhere between 50 and 75 per cent of new homes built in central London are sold overseas. The industry challenge is to not let the market overheat locking out more working Londoners, which it is in danger of doing.

How has the developer landscape/housing association changed during the recession?
Probably the only good thing to come out of the recession is a better relationship between private and HA sectors. This includes HA’s using their cash more imaginatively and getting a better deal from the supply chain. This has to be the future because low grant and sales cross subsidy is the only way to stay in the game. Get it right and everyone wins!

What would you most like the government to do for you? And what one thing could improve the quality of what is being delivered?
Government ask:
Most HA’s working in London are operating rent policies that link back to welfare reform so that families can continue to live in London. This creates an investment environment that is producing less family sized homes. This an incredibly difficult problem and continued focus on reviewing the balance between capital grant vs rent level with an eye on supporting London’s living wage is required. Not easy!

Improving quality:
About 10 years ago, quite by chance I came across a draughtsman who had previously worked for Berkeley Homes adding value to detailed design layouts. Ever since then I have used him to look at our sales homes layouts (particularly the difficult bookend plots) and, without fail, he has either reduced cost or improved GDV or both. His manner is such that design teams never feel threatened by him. A secret weapon of sorts.

Which of your projects is your favourite and why?
I am going to give you three projects which stand out for me.
First, Newquay house which was my first ever development at L&Q in 1989 and which formed part of the Kennington Duchy of Cornwall estate transfer to L&Q. The architect was Ben Derbyshire at HTA. Here we turned a Louis De Soisson designed 1930’s block of flats into a multi generation urban courtyard block, whilst maintaining the beauty of the original building and its exquisite fixtures & fittings. The result was ground floor family homes with their own front door and garden, older persons apartments with balconies over looking a secure central community courtyard and smaller apartments for singles and couples above the family homes. Urban, dense and high quality. 24 years on it is still a fantastic place to live.

Second, Peabody’s Plaistow hospital development which is currently on site. Here a design competition was held last year as part of the Peabody 150 years celebration and PCKO was selected to design homes around some attractive Victorian buildings. We worked alongside Newham to develop the design and achieved a great planning consent for 168 homes including a large number of family houses which, in the current funding environment, is an excellent outcome. The landscape design (by Farrer Huxley) is an integral part of the development focussed on enabling the new community to integrate and thrive.

PCKO Peabody

Peabody’s Plaistow hospital development, currently on site, by PCKO

Finally, My own house which we renovated over the last year. This has turned an average Victorian house in a Kennington conservation area into a wonderful home that has maintained the conservation aspects of the house, brought the living space into the garden, created a home cinema, improved our carbon footprint and a glazed roof in the bathroom which means I can lie in the bath, watch the stars and think about housing policy. It was great to be a resident client (possibly not for our very patient architect, Steve Cox, Cox architecture) and exploring first hand how important lifestyle choice is in design. Also, we had to move out for 7 months and it was great to experience living high rise on the 33rd floor of Strata. 


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Readers' comments (1)

  • That's a great set of tips from Claire Bennie. Next time they have a competition, I might enter!

    The number of women entering reflects almost exactly the number of women in architecture - does Peabody know that? From Mrs Bennie's comment, maybe not.

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