Following the completion of Wansey Street, the pilot housing scheme for the ambitious regeneration of the Elephant & Castle, dRMM was selected to develop the Harper Square site, which would form the next phase of social housing developed by Family Mosaic Housing. The complicated site had to work hard to reconcile a competing assortment of apartment blocks, school buildings and public open space. Notwithstanding, our aspiration remained to create a high-quality, ‘car-free’ housing scheme around a central shared landscaped space, referencing traditional London Squares and the 1960s SPAN developments.
The communal green space forms the heart of the scheme, supporting different activities for different age groups and interests. In order to foster a sense of neighbourliness and wider collective community, apartments have been clustered in smaller individual buildings and then linked with shared stairwells to create a cohesive whole. Levels of community are reiterated with the façade of green glazed terra cotta tiles, which also serve to reflect the landscaped heart. The majority of the units are ‘through’ apartments, with rooms on both the street and garden that maximise light and natural cross ventilation. Units on the ground floor have terraces, offering private outdoor space, while stepped rooftop levels provide private terraces and biodiversity for upper floors.
We placed great emphasis on community consultation in our approach to this scheme. As a result we used the Section 106 contribution to invest directly in an enhancement to the landscape around the base of the neighbouring Symington House. The nature of the collaboration was applauded by the Planning Committee who considered the success of this relationship as an exemplar for how community involvement should work.
Photography © Jonas Lencer, Judith Stichtenoth