Peabody Housing

Built on a tight site in east London, these four low-cost apartments for the Peabody Trust comprise four pod-like flats that occupy a triangular site at the end of a terrace of Victorian houses.

The ground-floor flats open onto their own gardens and patio decks, while the first-floor flats are connected by a prefabricated steel and timber structure which incorporates stair access and private outdoor deck-space for the upper flats, where occupants can encounter each other in space that is simultaneously private and shared.

Ash Sakula were commissioned following a competition held by Peabody called 'Fresh Ideas for Low Cost Home Ownership' which was open to small practices with less than seven staff. The project is an early example of shared ownership affordable housing.

Awards

2006 Sustainable Living by Design, Best Built Project

A close-up detail of the facade at the entrance to one of the upper apartments. Profiled translucent fibreglass back by silver foil, with strands of electrical cable in the interstices. Chain link fencing surrounds each upper flat's terrace.

Being briefed to produce two-bedroom apartments, each measuring just 67m², precipitated a re-appraisal of the spatial priorities of the traditional small flat, which resulted in an unconventional but extremely workable configuration.

The dwellings are identically arranged around an enlarged hallway where the space is both light and complex - anything but a corridor. It is large enough to hold a desk or daybed, a place to sort laundry or an area for children to play.

Bedrooms are kept as small as possible. Clothes, for example, are stored elsewhere. While the kitchen is the main social space of the flat, the living room is a cosy (with)-drawing room that can also be a home office or guest room.

Bathrooms and WCs are separate. Each is spacious, has a large basin and an opening window.

The plan above was made at competition stage.

The street facade of the houses.

The timber-framed buildings are enveloped in a gleaming silver foil, overlaid with translucent corrugated fibreglass, clear at the back, gold at the front. In The Guardian, Jonathan Glancey likened the buildings to “a handful of those Quality Street toffees wrapped in yellow foil”.

Decks, stairs and terraces are enclosed in a wire mesh fencing mounted on timber posts, a detail derived from farm fencing, its roughness offsetting the machine finish of the translucent fibreglass cladding.

With this ground-breaking, pod-based solution, Ash Sakula created a pattern for low-cost housing solution that is readily replicable on other sites. The tapered shape of each pod can be configured in any number of ways, making it ideally suited to small and irregular sites. In this case, the site is a small, acutely angled triangle.

Pods can be stacked from one to eight storeys high. Units are assembled on site using a maximum of prefabricated elements to achieve speed and quality in construction.

The use of a single flat type maximises the advantages to be gained from repetition and bulk-ordering of materials and components.

Part of the oversized hall, looking towards the front door. the front door and window positions can be reversed for maximum flexibility of site layout. Next to the door is a set-down table or home working space, and outside is the terrace.

Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos

The site, purple, is one of three owned by clients Peabody. This drawing shows our competition-stage proposal for all three sites, using the same pod design for each in different ways.

Read more about the thinking behind this project:

The site is small and acutely triangular. The tapering plan of the homes enables them to slide further into the corner of the site than if they were rectangular.

The corrugated cladding set against silver foil creates lavender and turquoise reflections. In the corrugation's interstices are suspended twisted strands of black and white electrical cabling, adding to the kinetic parallax illusion created as one passes the buildings - an effect developed by Ash Sakula in collaboration with the artist Vinita Khanna.

In the Guardian, Jonathan Glancey wrote, "Ash Sakula has designed some of the most imaginative and thoughtfully planned low-cost housing in London."

A few weeks after the residents moved in we received this painting from the Brewer family. It said, "Thank you for our incredible home." In an accompanying letter the Brewers wrote, "... we have never seen anything better designed for us as a family. Thank you for all your thoughtful hard work."

Animators Wrench & Franks made a short video of the project. Here is a still from the closing sequence.

Client: Peabody Trust

Artist collaborator: Vinita Khanna

Structural Engineer: Whitby Bird

MEP: Atelier 10

PM and QS: Walker Management

Area: 4 x 67m²

Site area: 472m²

Value: £618,000

Completed: 2004