"The streets become big party rooms"
- Alison Brooks on Newhall Be


Architect Alison Brooks talks about how residents come together in the streets of her firm's Be housing project in Essex, UK, in this movie produced by Living Projects.

Alison Brooks Architects designed 85 homes in a variety of typologies as part of Newhall masterplan on the eastern edge of the Essex town of Harlow.

Nominated for the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize and announced overall winner at this year's Housing Design Awards, the houses at the development, formerly named South Chase, reference the traditional local architecture.

"We were able to achieve narrower urban blocks, because they're back to back and they're terraced, and a denser overall masterplan," Brooks says.

Keeping to the original masterplan, terraces create east-west streets and detached dwellings line north-south avenues, with apartment blocks at the corners of the site.

For the terraced houses, the firm cut courtyards and front gardens into each square plan. "We were able to develop a T-shaped plan, which means you enter the house at the centre and that central hole is the hub of the house," says Brooks.

She also explains that the apartment blocks connect the scheme together: "They help the masterplan turn the corners in a slightly softer, more organic manner."

Finally, she comments on how residents use the outdoor spaces to socialise. "They use the streets for street parties in the summer," Brooks says. "Everybody opens up their kitchens on to their front courtyard... the street itself becomes a big party room, and that I think is a big achievement." Read more about the project in our earlier post.

Living Projects also created a movie about the Church Walk residences in north London by David Mikhail and Annalise Riches.

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  • chinaimport

    So why didn’t they show one of the outside parties? For sure there is nothing like this going on there – everybody just minds his own business, like everywhere else.

    • robert_t

      Absolutely true, despite the architect’s aspirations! It’s turned out to be a peaceful but still friendly neighbourhood. After living here for nearly 4 years, we’ve not witnessed a “street party” on our road ;-)

  • RIBA East talk and tour of Newhall Be being planned for 3rd October 2013 – register your interest by email riba.east@riba.org

  • Kyle

    It’s great to hear residents praising the development. This work is so much better than the bizarre backward looking housing estates being built elsewhere in the country.

  • Douglas

    Awww, Harlow. I was brought up there and lived there for many decades until returning to London. A superb post-war social experiment: a great place to live until the Council House sell off fractured the concept in almost every conceivable way.

    Hopefully the new development there will revitalise the town. However, it was originally 70% social housing and that aspect was a massive part of its early success. I hope these new houses include genuinely affordable ones, because that’s what is really needed.