WA2 (Four Bays)

Working with 31/44 Architects, the site for our second project offers an opportunity to examine and re-interpret aspects of Whitstable’s various residential typologies with a frontage development of 2 houses and 6 apartments.

The primary intention here is to achieve a quiet form, which adds coherence and a recognisable local distinctiveness to a disorganised street scene, without imposing uniformity. We aim to respond to the variety, scale and rhythms of the road such that a chronically underused site achieves a more appropriate density without appearing cramped or assertive in scale.

However, quietness in form needn’t mean anonymity, and certainly not imitation. Instead, the buildings will present a semi-detached (or paired) gabled and bay-fronted form with precision and a subtle shift in materials. The predominant red brick walls and slate roof will echo the adjacent Edwardian terrace, but bay windows made of pigmented concrete and slender metal will reference the multistorey masonry/timber bay windows of nearby Cromwell Road.

Cromwell Road and others nearby also feature a multitude of decorative approaches to the bay window, with faience tiles, decorative wood turning and paint colours used to distinguish individual houses within the terrace or pair. With this project, ideas about domestic and individual embellishment and adornment take the place of the more civic-minded adornments of Haddo Yard. Red House in East Dulwich, also with 31/44 Architects, is another influence on ideas about using decoration to strengthen the experience of arrival, threshold and entrance.

Emerging policy encourages apartments in sustainable locations but stipulates that on roads where other multi-unit development does not feature, new development should respect the scale of the existing housing. This policy position was taken as a starting point and led to a massing approach where the two buildings have a near identical presence in the street. However, one is a pair of semi-detached houses, the other is six apartments. The effect is that a rich mix of units is achieved without it being explicit in the massing – like the tenements and townhouses of New Town Edinburgh. The Flats are legible only in the single entrance door, the asymmetry of which acknowledges the subversion of the form.

Full planning permission was granted for the project in May 2016.