The project respects and integrates with the neighbouring Victorian buildings and continues the idea of ‘open corners’, promoting easy pedestrian access and views between the courtyard and the adjoining streets.
Darbishire Place at Peabody’s Whitechapel Estate in East London completes an ensemble of 6 housing blocks surrounding an internal courtyard; the original block having been destroyed during World War II.
With a budget in keeping with typical Peabody affordable housing projects, the scheme is comprised of 13 new one, two, three and four bed units, 54% of which are affordable. The design respects the massing and characteristics of the existing buildings on the estate and continues the idea of ‘open corners’, promoting easy pedestrian access and views between the courtyard and the surrounding streets.
Planning constraints were within normal planning policy, the estate is not located in a conservation area, however the Conservation Officer took a particular interest due to the significance of the surrounding Peabody housing blocks, which were designed by Henry Darbishire in the 1870s.
Urban design was carefully considered, the eastern façade of new block aligns fronts John Fisher Street and aligns with Block E to the north, while the south end relates closely to the adjacent Block J. The new building has a chamfered southwest corner allowing views and light into the courtyard and creating a new pedestrian link between the spaces.
The existing blocks are five stories with repetitive window patterns reflecting their internal layouts. The openings are formed with brick reveals that are painted white, adding to the buildings’ Italianate character.
The facades in the new building make a respectful reference to the surrounding buildings with the contrast between the external brick skin and the deep window reveals repeated and accentuated. The reveals are formed from prefabricated GRC blocks and occur around each window and balcony. These deep reveals taper to a fine edge creating sharp repetitive frames and a compelling play of light and shadow across the facades.
The main entrance is from the courtyard side of the building, in keeping with the other blocks. It leads into a lobby that opens up towards the lift and the bottom of the staircase. The central circulation space, which tenants pass through every day, is flooded with natural light from the windows above. The staircase winds its way up around a dramatic central void, which creates visual connections between the landings.
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