Client: London Borough of Southwark
Status: Completed 2015

A PRP Architects Project 
Designed by Newground Directors while employed at PRP

The short stay accommodation in Willow Walk is an alternative to bed and breakfast accommodation for families on Southwark Council’s housing waiting list. As the first purpose designed example of its kind in the country, the brief needed to be drafted from first principles and the design process was instrumental to enabling the brief to evolve with us working in close collaboration with the borough’s Housing Services. The project also involved extensive consultation with the residents of the nearby housing estate, through workshops and an open day so that by the time the scheme was submitted for planning consent, the existing community was fully supportive of the proposals.

We came up with the idea to run a new street through the irregularly shaped small site.  This strategic move was instrumental to unlocking the potential of the site creating two land parcels suitable for development, as well as repairing the urban fabric by connecting the previously dead end streets. The larger of the sites was for the short stay accommodation and the smaller plot was selected for a new block of family flats, which launched Southwark Council’s 10000 Homes programme. The new street also transforms a previously underused and unsupervised play area, placing it at the heart of the neighbourhood overlooked on all sides by housing.

The mass of the new buildings is articulated into smaller elements reminiscent in scale to the houses nearby so that the new buildings are limited to four storeys high. The use of familiar materials, in particular London stocks, further integrates the scheme into its surroundings. The individuality of each short stay unit is expressed by a rhythm of generous bay windows. The choice of materials and detailing of the general needs flats are similar but complementary with balconies to all upper level flats as counterpoint to the bay windows diagonally opposite. The choice of green glazed bricks and the design of the metal grilles and gates was inspired by the mature trees surrounding the site.

The design of the short stay unit is modelled on motel accommodation including en-suite sanitary provision. The units are arranged in clusters of two rooms sharing a kitchen, lobby and ‘front door’, with floor area corresponding to a one bedroom flat for future adaptation. Access to the front doors is through a covered atrium with decks at first and second floors. The naturally lit and ventilated atrium is open on the south side and overlooks the improved playground. There is scope for large families to occupy two adjacent units through interconnecting doors, but always sharing cooking facilities with another family, as legal requirement to distinguish from permanent housing.

The scheme was completed in 2015 and has received a Building Excellence Award given to developments by local authorities.