Open House is a two-week celebration of London’s architecture, housing and neighbourhoods. Visitors can gain access to a huge number of remarkable buildings, from historic churches to private homes, to city infrastructure.

This year Alan Benzie from jmarchitect’s London office took a guided tour of A House For Artists in Barking, east London. This project, commissioned by Create London and designed by Apparata Architects, consists of a community arts space and twelve affordable flats stacked on three floors above. These flats are let to artists at a below market rent, in return for the artists contributing time to the community art programme.

It was built using a single skin of 50 per cent Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag (GGBS) concrete, in which half the cement is substituted with a by-product of the steel industry. This drastically reduces the carbon footprint of the building, achieving 20% less carbon than the RIBA 2030 climate challenge figures.

The flats are open plan, very basically finished and easily adaptable by the residents. Deck access at the front and rear of the flats allows a simpler internal layout – the wider deck is used as a communal space and offers solar shading in the summer, all apartments are dual aspect so there is cross ventilation through the units, and a variety of flexible layouts and internal connections allow the residents to share spaces, share childcare responsibilities and work on collaborative projects.

The building is a striking addition to the street, with the ground floor community arts space offering floor to ceiling glazing, the residential element in a strongly geometric playful form, and a communal outdoor area which is now starting to be used by the wider local community.

“A House For Artists offers some interesting options of materials, circulation and programme for low cost housing, and while it is very different from the residential briefs that we work to at jmarchitects, I enjoyed seeing a different approach resulting in a successful well-occupied building.”

                 – Alan Benzie, jmarchitects London

Doors Open Days is Scotland’s largest free festival that celebrates heritage and the built environment, offering free access to over a thousand venues across the country each September. The Edinburgh and East Lothian events will take place this coming weekend – 24th and 25th September 2022.

Credit: Alan Benzie, jmarchitects London

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