Over the last two decades the focus of regeneration has been centered on the inner city, with the outer suburbs remaining relatively neglected. Increasingly it has become more widely realised that there are opportunities to increase the density of suburbs, particularly in areas around existing transport connections.
As more and more people find themselves pushed out from the inner boroughs, development in the suburbs is likely to assume an increasingly important role in meeting London’s housing need. The adoption of a different form of residential architecture gives the potential to create valuable new housing that can harmoniously co-exist with the character and qualities that are valued in established suburban residential neighbourhoods, such as their openness and verdant character.
The suburban character of avenues of semi-detached houses with generous rear gardens is well known and familiar. But suburban areas typically contain a range of other spaces, particularly where the streets of semi-detached housing lie behind main roads.
The site for this project is typical of such a location, positioned on the boundary between a busy high street and an established suburban residential neighbourhood and currently occupied by a run of garages located at the bottom of an existing rear garden. A detailed analysis of similar buildings along the same road revealed the variety of uses that were present, flats, workshops, storage units, gyms and pool halls.
Redeveloping such ‘leftover’ plots raises a number of design issues. Privacy needs to be created for both the occupants of the new housing and the existing adjacent properties. But the residents also need to enjoy natural light and appealing outdoor spaces.
Each of the dwellings is organised around courtyards. The external walls of the building extend out to define outdoor rooms, allowing the interiors to directly open to the courtyards. Generous rooflights increase the variety of natural light through the course of the day.
The scale of the new building is kept subservient to the adjacent semi-detached housing. A simple but robust palette of materials is adopted, with simple forms and generous proportions. The predominant material is brick, with surface interest increased through the use of a variety of brick bonds.
The use of courtyards and careful positioning of windows avoids the creation of overlooking situations. The walls of the new building retain the quality of traditional brick garden walls, set against the existing mature planting and landscaping, minimising the visual impact of the new building on the adjacent semi-detached housing.
The project has been granted planning consent.