South Chase housing by
Alison Brooks Architects


London firm Alison Brooks Architects used dark-stained timber and sloping rooftops to reinterpret the rural architecture of Essex for this suburban housing development (+ slideshow).

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Entitled South Chase, the 84-residence development is the first phase in the construction of a new neighbourhood on the eastern edge of the town of Harlow and it accommodates a variety of housing typologies.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Apartment blocks and stand-alone houses mark the corners and end-plots of four new streets, while rows of terraced houses and courtyard houses are arranged in rows between.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Describing the goals of the development, Alison Brooks told Dezeen she wanted to create "a completely new and more sustainable suburban housing typology where open-plan flexible houses are integrated with outdoor spaces to increase the sense of space and light".

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Above: courtyard houses

The architect also emphasised the importance of creating "dedicated working spaces" in each house, adapting to the growing number of people who work from home and "helping to create an economically active suburb". In line with this, each house comes with an accessible loft that can be converted into an office and the larger houses also include a ground-floor study that doubles up as a spare bedroom.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

There are 50 houses on the site in total: 14 stand-alone houses, 29 courtyard houses and 7 terraced houses. The T-shaped courtyard houses are designed to offer a new standard in UK housing, with a dense format that makes room for terraces at both ground and first floor levels. Meanwhile, the terraced houses include south-facing front gardens and the L-shaped stand-alone houses have both rear gardens and driveways.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

The five accompanying apartment blocks each contain between six and eight homes and are positioned to maximise views.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

All buildings feature a prefabricated timber construction, with a materials palette of sandy brickwork, black-stained larch and slate roof tiles.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Alison Brooks Architects designed the masterplan in collaboration with urban designers Studio REAL.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Above: terraced houses

Brooks founded her studio in 1996 and has since won the Manser Medal for the timber-clad Salt House and was part of Stirling-Prize winning team that worked on the Accordia housing development. Other recent projects include a tapered house extension in north London.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Above: stand-alone houses

See more new stories about housing design, including projects by Peter Barber and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Above: apartment blocks

Photography is by Paul Riddle.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Here's some more information from Alison Brooks Architects:

Newhall South Chase Lot 3

This 84-unit scheme for Linden Homes will complete South Chase, Phase 1 of the award- winning Newhall development in Harlow, Essex. ABA's approach integrates a mix of new and familiar house typologies, prefabricated timber construction and a highly efficient masterplan to maximize living space and flexibility for individual homes. The scheme's geometric and material consistency was inspired by the powerful roof forms and simple materials of Essex's rural buildings. ABA has utilised these geometries to bring light into terraced courtyard houses, allow rooms in the roof, permit oblique views to the landscape beyond the site, and to introduce a sculptural rhythm to the scheme's streetscapes.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

The development consists of 84 units across four building types; 5 Apartment buildings containing 6,7 or 8 flats each; 14 Villas; 29 Courtyard Houses and 7 Terraced Houses totalling 84 units, 26% of which are affordable.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects


ABA's masterplan was developed in conjunction with Studio REAL and responds to the site's Design Code as well as Lot 3's prominent corner location on the South Chase site. Larger scale apartment buildings hold important corner locations to both define north-south streets and frame views to the wider countryside and beyond. 126sm villas line the north south streets and act as bookends to the more densely configured courtyard houses of the east-west lanes.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

All housing types incorporate covered front porches; central stair halls; roof terraces; Juliette balconies and cathedral ceilings. Loft spaces either finished as bedrooms or can be retrofitted by homebuyers as workspaces, additional bedrooms or games rooms. Villas and Courtyard houses all have a ground-floor study - ABA consider this additional room as essential for accommodating the electronic media and home working lifestyles of the 21C.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects


A simple palette of materials – FSC-rated, pressure treated Siberian Larch with a non-toxic water-based stain; Welsh slates; recessed gutters; Protec Composite Windows and simple steel railings allow the subtly angled surfaces and overall scheme geometries to be clearly expressed. Ground floor porcelain tiled floors on a beam and block substructure provide thermal mass for underfloor and passive solar heating.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Courtyard Houses – A New Model for UK Housing

The courtyard houses are a radical reconfiguration of typical long and narrow 5m x 20m terraced house plot to a 9.5mx10.5m plot. This square plot permits a very wide house footprint, T-shaped with courtyard spaces or 'outdoor rooms' that interlock with kitchen/dining and living rooms. A covered front porch creates a important semi-public threshold between the house front door and the street's shared surfaces. Inside, a very generous central hall creates a sense of spaciousness; we consider front halls as important/functional as any other room in the house.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

A large 1st floor roof terrace above the kitchen in effect lifts the garden to gain more hours of sunlight. Master bedrooms have cathedral ceilings that follow the roof line, and the 3 bed versions of the house have a generous loft bedroom.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Above: aerial masterplan


The villas are two-storey, L-shaped in plan to provide a front parking court that also maximizes south facing orientation and views to the street/landscape beyond. Covered front porches with balconies give the houses an open and inviting street presence. Front 'outriggers' contain the study and bedroom above. This and the master bedroom have sloped ceilings that reflect the exterior geometry of the roofs. Central entrance halls lead to an open plan living, kitchen and family room and the study that can double as guest bedroom. Large expanses of glazing that lead onto timber decks draw the garden into the house and create a sense of informal spaciousness. Solar hot water panels are standard on the villas and courtyard houses apartments.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Above: courtyard house plans - click above for larger image 

The Terraced Houses - Affordable

The seven terraced houses, of 90sm and 115sm, are set back on their plots to provide south-facing front gardens. Each end of the terrace pulled forward to create and enclosed 'courtyard- like' street. The terraces follow the scheme's principles of central hall, open plan living/dining and generous bedrooms, with a convertible loft space and cathedral ceilings in 1st floor bedrooms. Each house has 5.4 sm of Photovoltaic roof tiling.

South Chase housing by Alison Brooks Architects

Above: courtyard house section - click above for larger image 

The Apartments

Five apartment blocks form important urban markers at street junctions, and act as gateways to the development. Each block's slightly angled geometries give the facades a directionality that responds to their orientation, views, and integrates their larger massing with the highly articulated masses and angled roofs of the adjacent houses. Upper floors clad in brick cantilever over the main entrances to provide a sheltered porch - these are expressed as timber clad 'cuts' in the brick volumes. Flats all have generous terraces, French doors and Juliette balconies, all of which increase the sense of space, maximize natural light and provide wonderful views for both affordable and for sale apartments.

  • Floor plans?!

  • stuart

    These look great. So many new housing projects in the UK look awful – I hope it inspires big building companies here!

  • Calum

    A great project. Newhall stands out in the area (I’ve lived in the neighbouring Church Langley and Old Harlow) as a beacon of great architecture in the area. Love the echoes of traditional Essex architectural themes.

  • calle wirsch

    This is an excellent example of how density and individual spaces come together. Inspiring.

  • Why is this the exception? This development looks beautifully detailed and thoroughly considered. See New Lubbesthorpe proposals for less-than-inspiring housing in the UK.

  • Lovely Project. The familiar language but irregular folded roof and dark façade creates a street rhythm and fine grain while maintaining an edge. The internal spaces flow very well with lots of little circuits for children to run around! Nice work AB.

  • Jarek

    Someone obviously visited Inverness Housing Expo and liked one of theJM Architects buildings (shape, colours, materials). And I must admit, it is is great it happened :)

  • D'laney.

    At last, a modern contextual development! When will developers learn that good design (with the right economical balance) sells?! They’re still stuck in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • Allan

    The architecture is great but I find this whole development monotonously serious. That is, it needs minor variations in height, roof shape or color, according to my taste.

  • As a person who lives in London, it will be great to see more of these houses. I like the design and everything, even though nothing can be compared to a solid old house like those in west or central London.

  • Jesenka Woodward

    I don’t think that even Prince Charles can find anything wrong with this development; it is modern but respecting the past. Would be nice to see floor plans. Are they equally well planned?

  • j.cameron

    Wood siding in England! Oh boy.

  • Greg

    It is quite interesting. I really like the designs, but why does each grouping need to be exactly the same, which makes a nice design redundant? Alternate the approach. Like living in a subdivision/development in which every house is exactly the same?

  • J D

    @ Greg

    I understand your sentiments. But what you have to understand is producing housing for developers on a large scale means repetitions of details is key to keep costs down. Variations in details are great, hence why arts and crafts housing stock is so popular. But unfortunately it’s not always possible in this economic climate, when the client/developer is value enginering at every corner!

  • The only issue with these houses is the way they let light in; it’s quite strange.

  • robert_t

    We’ve been living in one of the 4-bedroom (3-floor) villas for nearly 4 years now and are moving on (returning abroad), should anybody be interested in such a property.