Bracelet Close is the first phase of a five-year social housing development in Corringham, Thurrock. Comprising of 12 new homes, Bell Phillips Architects intends this scheme to become an exemplar for new council housing; with a strong emphasis on high quality design, construction and sustainability, lifting the overall public housing in Thurrock and raising the benchmark for future housing projects.
Part of Thurrock Council’s target to provide 1000 new homes in the next five years, Bracelet Close was selected as a great opportunity to utilise unused space in the most efficient and practical way for the community. The scheme brings life to a mostly disused two storey concrete garage at the centre of a series of post war housing blocks. The new homes create a memorable and well-functioning space which has been designed around the community’s needs, this being the demand for houses rather than flats. With this in mind, and the fact that there are many families on the waiting list in the council area, the proposed development comprises of new 2 and 3 bed homes.
Each building has a private ground floor patio, an upper floor terrace, access to a large communal courtyard along with sufficient parking for existing residents. The scheme surrounds the internal courtyard, including a series of entranceways that increase foot traffic. All facades have windows looking towards the street or pathways to ensure good active frontages and improved passive surveillance of existing public areas around the side of the development.
The houses have been designed to make the most of the sloping former garage site, with views to the countryside beyond and outstanding levels of amenity and light. Three-storey terraced houses on the higher part of the site benefit from double height space which brings light into living spaces from the south and roof terraces that offer views towards the north. Smaller two storey houses front onto the adjacent street, with outdoor terraces facing into the communal garden.
The entrance elevations form two simple and elegant terraces, articulated by recessed private entrances to give depth to the facades. The stepped arrangement of the east and west elevations follows the slope of the site, with breaks to provide glimpses from the street into the courtyard. The principal material is brick, with a wide variation of colour and texture to give richness and visual interest. Large picture windows are set within deep reveals, providing excellent daylighting to each dwelling. Windows, rainwater goods, terrace screens and wall copings share the same dark grey colour, emphasizing the scheme’s elegant simplicity. The unorthodox arrangement of surrounding properties lacks any clear pattern of public fronts and private backs that are found in a traditional urban street. With the site being at the centre of this layout caused particular challenges when designing for privacy along with practicality. Bell Phillips Architects wanted to create a clear distinction between public space, the street and private communal space, the courtyard garden in contrast to the existing layout. Around the site all areas whether road or pathway are public realm, so to create new house frontages and entrances to all sides. The courtyard garden is entirely secure in relation to the street and is accessible only to the twelve new house.
Communal interaction was prioritised in the design and at the centre of the development a shared space has sought to enhance a community feel. Multiple entranceways lead residents into a lush internal courtyard, where people can socialise, relax and play amongst a variety of hard and soft landscaping, seating areas and a number of specimen deciduous trees. The houses surround the courtyard and help define the space, with two large openings between the buildings allows views between the street and the courtyard.
Sustainability of the scheme was critical in terms of the buildings proposed footprint, distance between properties, environmental impact and lifetime maintenance costs. The design and construction of the scheme was aimed to maximize quality and space whilst maintaining a low overall construction cost to ensure the development is truly affordable for local people. Corringham is a rural town surrounded by verdant landscape, an inspiring view which contrasts with the immediate vicinity of low density housing. The lack of vegetation around the site and surrounding neighbouring properties gave the opportunity to introduce new trees and species to the ecology of the site.