The Islington Square project in Manchester consists of 23 new two to four bedroom family homes and is part of the larger New Islington development by Urban Splash. One of the first steps in the design process was a series of design workshops at which the architects discussed existing conditions with users and photographed their existing housing units to help understand how the units accommodated certain changes over time (e.g. reconfiguring the kitchen, overlaying of personalized decoration) and ways in which they did not (e.g. redefining the circulation path off the living room). This led the architects to provide a quite versatile solution with an L-shaped, open plan configuration which can be subdivided easily and allows for a variety of spatial and functional possibilities. The design also includes high ground floor ceiling heights (2.9m), windows in every space and proportions which allow for a variety of furniture layouts. The stair contains a deep bay window which creates an opportunity to activate the circulation space for other uses (e.g. space for a desk or a piano). In addition, the residents are given open space at the rear to extend their living environment (e.g. conservatory).
The design focused on providing the users multiple ways to use and appropriate the various spaces – starting not finishing the residences. Regulations dictated that every home needed to be provided a parking space, the architects cleverly designed the space to allow for parking or to be used as an additional front garden space. The courtyard like space is defined by pairing two units together and carrying the façade across the front. Residents were allowed to customize elements of the home including choosing kitchen and bathroom styles along with exterior color specifications (e.g. rear exterior façade). The homes are also adaptable via Lifetime home principles (e.g. removable panel between main bedroom and bathroom for hoist, joists trimmed for addition of lift.) While the units are developed as social housing, the fact that they transcend aesthetic stereotypes (they don’t look like 99% of other social housing schemes) provides the residents with a sense of pride and appreciation towards the design and affords a social durability to the design as well.
Images courtesy of Tim Soar and Ed Sumner