MEPK Architects looks to the past for an innovative sheltered housing project
MEPK Architects has completed Darcy House, a community for 80 elderly residents in Dagenham, Essex. The brief from Hanover Housing Association was to provide facilities well above the standards of typical sheltered housing, so MEPK designed a highly sustainable project that employs an innovative form.
The layout of the 52-unit community follows the principles of the Garden Suburb movement, with a core block at its centre housing 36 apartments and communal facilities, and an outer ring of bungalows placed in intimate groups. The resulting site plan creates a series of attractive communal spaces.
The entrance to the core block provides a landmark for visitors, while the large public square in front provides a focus for residents. The front doors of both the bungalows and flats in the main block open onto these public spaces, a measure that aids residents’ sense of security and familiarity with each other.
The main block offers a number of facilities, including a communal lounge, restaurants and shops, reception, therapy areas and a library. These shared facilities are housed along an internal “street”, which ensures maximum accessibility for residents as well as clear separation from residential areas.
The buildings feature a combination of bright white render and stock brickwork, with the rendered walls and curved corners echoing the modernist movement of the early twentieth century. Inside, materials, fittings and lighting are co-ordinated to distinguish communal areas from private residences.
Every building including a bio-diverse sedum roof and solar thermal collectors to pre-heat water. Wind turbines have also been incorporated, taking advantage of the development’s location away from a built-up urban area.
The environmental and architectural opportunities offered by the project have been highly satisfying to the architects. “We’ve had a chance here to design something both sustainable and progressive, and to move away from neo-vernacular ideas to focus on a sense of place,” says MEPK’s Simon Cottingham.