The practice was commissioned by a Belfast–based housing association to develop and deliver a scheme for 16 social housing apartments. The brownfield plot is locked between a number of industrial sheds, their access lanes and forecourts, and fronts onto a busy arterial road.
As a response to these conditions we sought to define a new space within the site as an initial design strategy – a courtyard – with which the buildings (arranged in three blocks) could engage as a neighbourhood. A stand of trees and planting is placed in the court as a focus of attention whilst each of the three blocks extends a porch to meet the edge of the courtyard, thereby physically connecting each block to the central communal space. The brick walls of the three blocks adopt the language of a grid of windows: where an opening is not required, a recessed panel of brick is adopted so the simple form of the blocks is retained yet large unarticulated areas of brick wall are avoided.
The three blocks are made with a chalky orange brick (typical of the nearby Belfast’s Victorian terraces, factories and mills). A light–grey exposed aggregate concrete surface defines the courtyard. Two of the blocks are three storeys tall and are identical. The third block (which runs parallel to the road) has two storeys in response to the scale of a nearby terrace to the south. Each porch has a generous window to the court so that all residents get a view of the trees as they descend the communal stairs or make their way to the front door.