45 Eden Grove

  • Affordable Housing
  • 2016
  • Client: Barnsbury HA
  • Area: 4,200 sq ft
45 Eden Grove, Islington, London N7 8EE

The contractor initially invited us to do the construction drawings of this small four-storey 100% affordable housing scheme in Islington. However, as we started work with the structural engineers and quantity surveyors, it became clear that the costs of the consented scheme we had inherited were not stacking up.

And it was paradoxically because the spaces were not stacked-up that costs were unnecessarily inflated: The overlapping layouts of the previous scheme made the cladding complex and generated costly structural transfers

We made a case for our client that we could quickly redesign the scheme not only to get it within budget but also to improve the quality of the homes significantly: As the layouts were when we got involved, the bedrooms lacked privacy, and the living rooms were narrow, poorly lit spaces, barely ventilated and challenging to furnish and use. With our client’s approval, we went back to planning and quickly secured a revised consent, redesigned the scheme and got it within budget with significantly improved layouts.

After years of experience working with great interior designers and high-end residential developers,
we applied some space design principles that grand schemes take for granted. We gave this modest scheme: well-proportioned spaces, good zoning, and made the most of the site’s views. The living rooms in this small affordable block became wonderful spaces opening fully onto the balconies and the green foliage of a mature tree on site. We improved privacy by relocating the bedrooms to the back, and we got the costs down by stacking kitchens and bathrooms. As we redrew the layouts, there was no need for structural transfers, and the external envelope was straightforward to build and insulate, providing a sustainable building. It was a pleasure working with a small housing association capable of delivering small scale schemes that larger organisations often can’t. ISHA were instrumental and provided an experienced team led by Tricia Gillis in helping Barnsbury develop the project.

Susan French, the chair of Barnsbury HA, kindly invited me to hand the keys to the last of their social tenants at the end of the scheme. It was a moving experience in more than one way. I had designed and built many affordable housing schemes, but I had never met and talked to a tenant on the moving-in day. We talked about the flat’s design, and they asked us why we had placed the washing machine away from the kitchen! It was a great conversation with the ultimate users of the flat, and we were grateful to be able to hear their feedback and explain our thoughts behind the scheme. They were delighted with their new home and its wonderful balcony.

Seeing that young family moving into this flat full of light was one of the most rewarding moments I’ve ever had as an architect.

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