mæ’s scheme for this affordable housing project in New Islington, East Manchester, is one of the seven Millennium Community projects in the UK, funded by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). Our scheme - christened ‘The Guts’ by residents owing to the site’s central position in the ‘belly’ of the New Islington masterplan - was granted planning permission by Manchester City Council in March 2010. Construction work reached practical completion in June 2012.
The scheme for 18 affordable homes is in the centre of the masterplan. As such, our design development work involved a great deal of collaboration with developers Urban Splash, the client team at Great Places Housing Group, and resident groups. The project has been realised to a tight design and construction programme in response to funding timetables. The project meets Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3, Lifetime Homes Standard, DFA2, and is also a Housing Design Awards Project Winner 2011.
mæ was appointed as architect, following an invited competition in November 2009, by clients Great Places Housing Group and developer partner Urban Splash. It is the eighth scheme to have been developed at New Islington, including Great Places’ post-modernist Islington Square, completed in 2006 and its green-roofed sister development, Guest Street, in 2007. Urban Splash developed the iconic Chips apartment block in 2009. A public park - Cotton Field - which was funded by the HCA, has also been completed along with a new health centre.
‘The Guts’ will provide houses for residents of the former Cardroom Estate who are set to return to the area.
Design and Appearance
Addressing the need in the area for large family homes we have created a series of distinct semi-detached dwellings. Each house has its own identity achieved by changing the brick colour at first floor level. The houses are bound together by a red brick wall at ground floor, which continues beyond the building envelope to become garden walls thus forming a perimeter block. We believe that the appearance of the new houses is a joyous and constructive response to the requirements of the area.
The Guts has been designed as a culturally legible set of individual homes, which together form a strong unified whole. The archetype of a ”home”, with its association with the form of a pitched-roofed house, was key to the design development of the project. The Guts comprises both terraced and semi-detached houses, the semi-detached units are rotated 90 degrees to the street, which allows for generous private gardens and good street surveillance on both sides of a narrow urban block. The “open grain” of this block allows the existing residents on Cardroom Road to maintain their visual connection with the central area of the Masterpaln site as it develops.
The “Guts” development is unified by one consistent colour of brick at ground floor level and individual colours for each home on top. This allows for recognition and family association, while maintaining a sense of the communal. Roofs are clay tiles with inset gutters.
The proposal is split into two urban blocks. The northern block is simply the continuation of an existing terrace facing onto Weybridge Road, with the building line referencing the other end of the street, enabling a reasonable rear garden to be provided for this marginally tapering site. These and the similarly orientated existing terraced properties adjoining are well surveyed to the rear because of the orientation of the southern block’s dwellings onto this area.
The southern block is bounded to the north by Cardroom Road and to the south by New Street. The form these dwellings take is front to back semi-detached units with side gardens, which gives a sense of spaciousness to the scheme, while allowing visual connections to be made through the site to the future developments in the South. All dwellings in this area have their main pedestrian and vehicular entrance on the street on which they are arrayed.
Each house is designed to generous space standards and with private garden and on-plot parking. The Guts has been designed as a culturally legible set of individual homes, which together form a strong unified whole. The archetype of a ”home”, with its association with the form of a pitched-roofed house, was key to the design development of the project.
At an urban design level our scheme achieves continuous urban frontage and good surveillance of public areas in order to minimise risk of anti-social behaviour and maximise passive surveillance. The robust familiar house-like nature of the buildings is intended to help sense of ownership and community identify. The choice of materials, form of construction and use of industry recognised robust details were planned to minimise long-term maintenance costs and construction risks.
The houses have gardens which could accommodate extensions and the layout of dwellings allow conversion of internal rooms and adaptations for wheelchair users.
Value for money
The scheme has been designed with whole life cost as a driver, considering design quality, durability and low maintenance. It has been built on time and within a tight budget. We have sought to achieve highly efficient net: gross. The houses are designed to maximise habitable room space and minimise circulation, though allowing for generous entrance lobbies. The scheme uses robust and carefully selected materials, predominantly high quality brick and clay roof tiles for external finishes, robust rainwater goods, generous glazing, as well as considered treatment of boundary conditions.
Since our appointment mæ has been an active participant in the resident consultation process. Regular meetings have been held at the “Chips” building within the Masterplan site, helping to explain the project design principles and register resident feedback, up to and beyond the point were planning approval was granted. Comments and requests from existing and returning residents have led to a number of amendments to the scheme design and unit layout, all of which we believe have improved the overall quality of the scheme design.
Site size / no. of homes: 0.45ha / 18 homes
Density: 40.5 units/ha
Schedule of accommodation: 5 x 2 bed, 11 x 3 bed, 2 x 4 bed