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Competition: Forest Gate co-housing, London

The RIBA has launched an international contest for a co-housing development in Forest Gate, east London (Deadline: 24 April)

Open to registered architects around the world, the Co-Living in London competition seeks ‘innovative’ proposals for a residential development featuring a series of 19m2 micro-apartments in the Forest Gate area of Newham.

The project, backed by developer bedu.uk, aims to deliver a pioneering co-housing community where facilities such as kitchens, utility spaces, play areas, gardens and outside areas are shared between residents. Teams participating in the contest may also be approached for additional opportunities beyond this project, which is the developer’s inaugural co-housing scheme.

Competition site

Competition site

RIBA adviser for the competition Hugh Broughton said: ‘The high cost of housing in London is a constant challenge for its inhabitants.

‘This competition offers architects the chance to explore innovative ways to provide market-affordable homes within a communal setting. The brief encourages new ideas to help create meaningful places that are a joy to live in and improve residents’ quality of life.’

Forest Gate is a mainly residential district, and home to several large green spaces including Wanstead Flats and West Ham Park. The area, 3km east of the Olympic Park, is connected by overground train to central London and will be served by Crossrail when it opens next year.

The competition focuses on the site of a light residential warehouse (pictured) near Romford Road. The single-storey complex – surrounded by a hotel, mosque and kitchen joinery workshop – is expected to be demolished to make way for the scheme.

Co-housing – also known as co-living – is a method of sharing communal facilities between several private homes, and was pioneered in Denmark during the 1960s.

The initiative allows neighbours to collaboratively plan and manage their shared environment, and is understood to bring certain social and practical, economic and environmental benefits, including reducing the amount of space needed for each private home.

Competition site

Competition site

The contest aims to deliver a series of low-rent co-living micro studios, where smart phone apps allow residents to manage their shared spaces. Proposals should encourage community interaction, be designed to age well with minimal maintenance, and respond to the views of potential residents.

The client will survey interested occupiers during the competition and integrate their requirements for space and design into the judging and selection process.

Teams must first submit a brief expression of interest and a description of their co-living vision. Up to 10 applicants will then be longlisted and invited to draw up massing concepts and attend interview.

Five shortlisted teams will then receive £3,000 + VAT each to develop designs and attend a final interviews. Longlisted teams failing to make the shortlist will receive £1,000 + VAT each.

The overall winner, set to be announced on 10 July, will receive £40,000 to develop the scheme further. Competition judges will include Broughton, Takero Shimazaki of t-sa Architects, planning consultant Matthew Johnson and client representatives.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 2pm, 24 April

Contact details

RIBA Competitions
No 1 Aire Street
Leeds
LS1 4PR

Email: riba.competitions@riba.org

Visit the competition website for more information

New Ground Co-housing case study: Q&A with Patrick Devlin

The partner at Pollard Thomas Edwards discusses lessons learned designing an innovative co-housing community in High Barnet, London

Patrick Devlin

Patrick Devlin

Patrick Devlin

How did New Ground Co-housing deliver an innovative solution for its users?

The innovation for the residents of New Ground Co-housing is the power that historically has been allowed only to a small group of wealthy and interested patrons: they participated in the design of the whole project, as well as being given control over the layout and finishes of their homes. The Older Women’s Cohousing (OWCH) had been working for over 10 years to establish a mutually supportive, intentional group, which then had to acquire many of the skills of the developer client through a collaborative design process developed with Pollard Thomas Edwards (PTE). The result: ‘I feel like the whole place is home, not just my flat.’

Innovations include a series of distributed social spaces – a common room at the heart of the development looking on to the street, a guest room/meeting room and sociable circulation spaces, a laundry and a series of shared outdoor spaces including a kitchen garden, social garden and back yard/car park – and an architectural language tailored to site and client group.

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

Source: Image by Tim Crocker

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

What architectural means did you harness to realise the project?

The decision-making ability of Older Women’s Co-housing (OWCH) was crucial to the collaborative design process; developing the design combined the passionate involvement of a committed private client with the pragmatism of a developer. The PTE team became increasingly attuned to the aspirations of the women as we presented developing ideas for their modification or agreement. We had to develop an architectural language that could accommodate a variety of layout and external form within a unifying palette of materials and proportions; the architecture embodies both the variety and coherence of the group.

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

Source: Image by Tim Crocker

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

What advice would you give to participants on designing a cohousing scheme featuring 19m2 micro-apartments?

Whether or not 19m2 micro-apartments are the right answer to space and budget limitations, a well-constituted co-housing group will be able to articulate their aspirations and respond to emerging constraints. Communal facilities – cooking, social and laundry, for example – that cannot be provided in such scant spaces will be a focus. They must spend time on agreeing how they want to live before the first design session.

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

Source: Image by Tim Crocker

New Ground Cohousing by Pollard Thomas Edwards

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