An innovative, holistic social housing scheme in north London, which makes the most of every single millimetre of its site.
Vaudeville Court began life as an open design competition, held by the London Borough of Islington, to explore what affordable family housing in the borough could look like in the 21st century.
Always putting residents first, Islington has a history of supporting new, innovative social housing models, from Victorian terraces to progressive post-war Lubetkin developments. This competition sought to provide new high quality homes for council tenants, exploring not only what form the housing could take, but also how it could fit into the small pockets of space that the borough has at its disposal to provide further homes for those who need them the most.
The site was an underused set of garages, serving a tower block, and located at the end of two terraced streets. It presented issues common across the borough: anti-social behaviour around the garages, problems of scale between the two housing types, and a need to work sensitively with the existing communities.
The challenge for us was about balancing the pressures that come with urban housing. The design needed to provide spacious family homes at inner-city densities; maximise indoor space at the same time as giving everyone generous outdoor space; balance communal space with privacy; and knit all of this together with the existing community adjacent.
Our response was based around a new philosophy of ‘home-sown’ housing. Inspired by the market gardens of Islington’s past, and the popular gardening clubs of its present, we imagined the scheme as a holistic, productive landscape, where every single surface – public or private, indoor or outdoor – is designed to be useful.
The design features 13 dwellings in a mixture of duplex homes on the ground and first floors, and two bedroom apartments above. Arranged in two terraces, with private gardens between them, the architectural design heals the existing terraces, using a formal frontage to reinforce the line of the buildings next door.
The frontage of the duplex homes is created with a kitchen garden and fruit tree along the street, to further reference the surrounding terraces. The family homes are dual aspect, with the living space running seamlessly from the front garden, through an open plan interior, out to the private courtyard garden beyond.
At the end of the rear garden is a flexible 'garden' room, which can be used for work, play or additional storage. Again, the aim here is to make the most of every millimetre of space: the roofs are planted to minimise their visual impact and surface water run-off and maximise biodiversity.
The apartments on the upper storeys are accessed via covered decks, which are partly open to the elements and thus far more convivial than corridors. Brick lattice screens are carefully placed to ensure privacy, whilst also providing even more space for plants to grow. Each deck is shared by only three households to encourage a sense of community.
The final element of the design are the communal gardens which surround the scheme. These are shared with residents of the tower block, and will be run by the tower’s gardening club. As such, they’ll create a means to 'grow' two neighbourhoods together.