by Anmol AhujaAug 26, 2022
Helmed by British architect Peter Barber, the eponymous London-based architecture practice happened to sweep the RIBA London Award this year, picking up four awards for its housing projects across the UK. While the firm delivers on a plethora of other typologies, it finds its forte in the design of social housing, a rather sensitive foray in the realm of public architecture. Through a number of housing projects displaying just the right mix of utilitarian sensitivity, and a typified architectural style that just borders on statement-making, but is much more a nod to the existing context, Barber’s practice and structures have, rightly so, established, defined, and continually evolved a niche of their own in public housing structures. While a number of their other housing projects saw the light of day in the nearly two years since 95 Peckham Road was materialised, the project firmly establishes itself as a benchmark in shared residential design and community living, now venerated by the RIBA for its outstanding architecture.
The structure develops as a modernistic, clustered re-interpretation of the tenement style mansion block, even the more typified in the United States with its characteristic use of red brick to clad vertically expansive volumes, than in the UK. Located in a prominent spot on the North side of Peckham Road in Southwark, the site for the development required significant analysis and careful consideration of the conditions on and surrounding the site. This was also done to make sure “that it enhanced and complimented the character of the local area whilst reintroducing a confident, coherent edge to the street”, according to an official release by Peter Barber Architects. “We sought for the building to be a vibrant, attractive and delightful addition to the local area, optimising the site’s potential whilst providing high quality homes for new residents, and improving the environment for existing neighbours,” states the release on the social and communal intent of the vibrant development.
95, Peckham Road, develops as an architectural mass with a well informed character, wherein cohabitation occurs in the 33 homes that call the prime spot its address, comprising 70 per cent privately habitable rooms, six per cent socially rented accommodations, and 24 per cent intermediate accommodations, with the percentages dictated by policy compliance. The most visually appealing aspect of the development, nearly unanimously, would be the array of south facing terraces cascading down the front facade, reinforcing the residents' and the buildings' relationship with the street below. The interesting volumetric mass of the building has been defined by the architects as 'ziggurat-like', resembling a stepped pyramid in form. While the form may not narrow down in the vertical plane as dramatically as a pyramid, one can spot the reductive volume on the upper floors, and a certain stacking mechanism for balconies and terraces that is governed by apparent randomisation. The stepped profile harbouring a terrace for each apartment is what the architects imagine to be a “colourful backdrop to the street”, as residents settle in and personalise these balconies and terraces.
The tonality and texture of the facing bricks cladding the entire complex remain in compliance with the brief to enhance the natural lighting gracing the development’s communal courtyards and terraces, also lending a softness to its elevation. The same softness is also observed in the interior spaces, with the inside of individual flats being coated in the same warm, light finishes, its exposed concrete curved stairwells that define the building envelope’s curvilinear profile along its corners, and long, linear corridors lined in the same brick patterns utilised on the exterior.
The aspect of communal living that is completely essential to the success of any residential development is fulfilled through a pedestrianised courtyard towards the rear of the building. Tree-lined and dotted with concrete benches along a softly linear avenue, the courtyard provides for a relatively quaint spot for residents to unwind by lending the building’s front as a buffer, while also providing access to the courtyard homes that surround the square. A raised ‘picnic folly’ on the far side of this square ensures active frontages on all sides of the building, while lending the structure’s morphology and roof profile distinctively visible amid rows of similar looking housing.
Name: 95 Peckham Road
Architect: Peter Barber Architects
Project Architect/Director: Phil Hamilton
Design Team: Peter Barber, Phil Hamilton, Alasdair Struthers, Emma Kitley
Client, Developer and Contractor: Kuropatwa
Structural Engineer: Hall Davis
Building Control Approved Inspector: BCA
M&E Consultant: Mendick Waring