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Revealed: shortlist in contest to create temporary homes in disused spaces

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Reed Watts Architects and Inter Urban Studios are among six teams shortlisted in an ideas contest to transform disused structures into temporary living spaces for homeless Romanian migrants

The two London-based studios are vying against rival entries by Joshua Doyle; Federico Ortiz and Gaston Saboulard from Spain; a team comprising Sofía de los Ríos, Adrian Feige and Constantino Baranda; and Manon Portera and Cécile-Diama Samb from Amsterdam.

Open to all, the competition, organised by Commonweal Housing, sought ‘loose fit, light-touch’ proposals to transform abandoned offices and industrial units into transitional, short-term accommodation for Romanian workers living in makeshift encampments around London’s busy North Circular Road.

The project aims to return the encampment sites to community use, and identify standard solutions to help all people forced into unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Proposals should deliver low-cost and flexible accommodation for people who are sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough and struggling to access suitable private rented tenancies.

The number of Romanian people sleeping rough in the capital has nearly tripled since 2013, when restrictions on emigration from Romania were lifted. There are currently about 1,545 Romanians living in unsanitary conditions in large open spaces, woodlands and parks surrounding the North Circular Road. The camps deprive local residential communities of vital amenity spaces. The project aims to address this double injustice by delivering new transitional living spaces within nearby underused spaces.

Commonweal Housing is a privately funded charity, which delivers bespoke housing solutions for target groups suffering social injustices. The group aims to identify prototype solutions that can be scaled up for wider application across the country.

Proposals were expected to harness empty meanwhile-use space – such as community halls, offices and warehouses – to deliver temporary, low-cost accommodation. Solutions had to be flexible and typically offer beds on a nightly or weekly basis for about £8 a night, as well as communal toilets, showers and food preparation areas. Rooms may be shared.

The competition’s judges include Gensler director Jonathan Breen, Architecture Foundation assistant director Phineas Harper, dRMM director Sadie Morgan, and Commonweal’s board of trustees chair, Fiona Mactaggart.

The overall winner will receive a £1,500 honorarium, while two runners-up will each take home £750.

Interviews will be held next week and the winners are expected to be announced later this month.

The shortlist

  • Inter Urban Studios
  • Reed Watts
  • Federico Ortiz and Gaston Saboulard – Independent entry from Spain
  • Sofía de los Ríos, Adrian Feige and Constantino Baranda – Independent entry
  • Manon Portera and Cécile-Diama Samb – Independent entry from Amsterdam
  • Joshua Doyle – Independent entry
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