The Harriet Hardy Extra Care Centre by Mæ


Project data

While it was not possible to see inside the flats, they are all designed to be 10 per cent larger than the Parker Morris Standards and access is planned to Part M(4), with generous circulation and open-plan layouts for ease of movement of wheelchairs. Low window ledges in the living spaces further help residents feel connected to the city outside, even when seated. All flats have been designed as ‘care-ready’, with technologies such as tele-care and assistive technology that can be tailored to residents’ specific needs.

This common current trope for indicating a ‘civic’ frontage, with its whisper of de Chirico and empty Italian piazzas, does here add a welcome accent to the whole ensemble. It faces onto a new pocket park, Westmoreland Park, one of a range of still somewhat dismal-looking and slightly amorphous green spaces across the development. In contrast, the inner court is the making of the block. Already bulked-out vertically by a couple of mature retained trees, it has the feel of a peaceful, green inner world with, at ground level, a series of sheds and raised beds encouraging more than just quiet contemplation.

The building delivers high-density housing intended to optimise the use of the site. Arranged in a horseshoe shape, it forms a south-facing courtyard to maximise solar gain. The compact plan has gallery-access, dual-aspect apartments, which aid cross-ventilation and help mitigate any overheating. The energy strategy includes district heating and renewables. A district heating system is housed within Sub-Plot 5 of the larger development. The scheme reduces carbon emissions in line with the London Plan policies 5.1 (Climate Change Mitigation), 5.2 (Minimising CO2 Emissions), 5.3 (Sustainable Design and Construction) and 5.5 (Decentralised Energy Networks).

Facing the street, the ground floor level has a series of shared rooms – a café, lounge and community centre – supporting both active and sociable use by residents, and supporting exchange with the wider community. The building steps up from five to seven storeys, with a taller building at the south-east corner. Its architecture is characterised by deeply articulated façades with arched balconies and a brick colonnade at ground floor level which adds interest and positive aspect to the streetscape.

Glancing views through to the courtyard are already visible on entering the extra care home reception, where a generous lobby leads off to lifts and stairs as well as through to the connected series of communal rooms, which open through to the inner garden, too. While this latter is formed of a fairly narrow canyon of space, on sunny days slants of sunlight enter and animate the spaces. This same sense of gentle focus is also found on the upper access decks, which are left open to the courtyard and the elements, enabling good cross-ventilation to the flats.

The nature and layout of the new Block S01 were well suited to reinforced concrete flat slab construction. New piled foundations were placed to navigate the remains of the existing foundations and protected trees, including the two mature trees in the semi-enclosed courtyard.

This careful calibration of spaces and thresholds comes from what Mæ calls the ‘progressive privacy’ built into the layout of this council-run scheme, which is designed for older residents with various care needs. It allows for different levels of sociability and privacy, independence and support, from the interconnected communal rooms on the ground floor – lounge, kitchen and café – to the balcony of each flat. The latter, allowing residents the chance to watch street life below, are halfway set back into the façade, giving people the choice to be more exposed or hidden from view.

Above, the floors of extra care dwellings wrap around, rising up to seven storeys. Meanwhile, to the south, the open arms of the U contain general needs housing for individuals, couples and families, which form bookends to the block. Two-storey townhouses occupy the ground floor podiums here, with a range of studio to four-bedroom flats above. The eastern bookend is taller at 10 storeys and has been shifted on its axis and expressed as a distinct tower-like form. Of the 119 units in all, 95 are for social rent, 22 for intermediate rent and two maisonettes are for private sale, with, in addition, one guest room for visitors to Harriet Hardy residents.

Ely says the overall design and layout was influenced by that of the traditional almshouse – the pre-Welfare State housing model for the old and infirm of a parish, often paid for through the endowment of some local worthy. Their typical horseshoe shape was similarly focused on an inner shared court, with a gradation of spaces from the communal to the individual: chapel and dining room to simple, often one-room, dwellings. But this ‘21st century almshouse’, as Ely refers to it, is no bucolic cottage-like terrace around a village green.

The estate’s original 2,759 council homes are projected to be replaced on current figures by approximately 4,200 homes in all, of which less than half – 1,600 – will be designated for social rent, 581 of these being council homes. The whole scheme is due to be completed at some point in the 2030s. It’s a typical example of the gentrification formula applied to many post-war council estates over the past two decades, a process for which the Aylesbury Estate was originally meant to be an early poster-child. In 1997, plagued by design issues, lack of maintenance and anti-social behaviour, it was chosen by Tony Blair as the site of his first speech as PM: a representative backdrop for the decay of the Welfare State and how the poorest had been left behind during years of Tory misrule. Sounds strangely familiar.

In its treatment of decorative brickwork and bold language of double-height arches, specific reference is made to Sir John Soane’s St Peter’s Church nearby, to the brick kilns in Burgess Park and to the bays of the Liverpool Grove conservation area.

Start on site March 2019
Completion  March 2023
Gross internal floor area  11,295m²
Construction cost £26 million
Construction cost per m²  £2,300
Client  Notting Hill Genesis
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultants WSP, Emersons, JSW
Main contractor Hill Partnership


Phase 1B, developed with Notting Hill Genesis, gained planning consent in April 2015 and is only now completing. It consists of six blocks: four HTA-designed, plus one apiece by HawkinsBrown and Mæ.

Walking along the access deck outside the front doors of the Harriet Hardy extra care flats, Alex Ely, director of Mæ Architects, points to the adjacent windows. ‘They’re the bedrooms. We placed them to this side so that more infirm residents can still see neighbours pass, perhaps even chat to them through the window and feel connected.’

This plan attracted opposition from the start, with accusations of ‘social cleansing’ of council tenants as well as a failure to properly consider renovation as an option. Several residents who had originally bought their flats under the Right to Buy scheme refused to sell up and move out. Protests flared up in 2015-17, when there was a series of marches led by residents and outside campaign groups and several of the emptied blocks were squatted. Even now there is an active court case involving a resident still determined to stay in their flat.

This multi-generational block brings together general needs accommodation for individuals and families alongside specialist care housing. Our design aims to make extra care housing a seamless part of the housing provision. The building has a civic quality and offers the benefits of independent but collective living in the city. We have imagined a new community that will be both cohesive and outward-looking.

Thermal line considerations were a key aspect of the balcony design. 3D modelling and co-ordination was used to create the complex geometry of the balconies and to ensure that the thermal breaks were installed correctly at the joints where the slabs or columns transition from internal to external. The concrete profile was stepped to allow for insulation and falls were provided to drainage points to maintain positive drainage.


Engineer’s view

Alex Ely, director, Mæ

Councillor Helen Dennis, cabinet member for new homes and sustainable development, Southwark Council

However, in 2001 more than 70 per cent of residents voted against Southwark’s proposal to transfer the estate to a housing association, which would have unlocked investment but at the cost of a mass sell-off of homes to the private sector. Four years later, in 2005, the council announced that, given the estate’s poor state and the costs to renovate it, the only option was phased demolition, replacing it with higher-density housing. Over half of these new units would be for sale, with the remaining, including a considerably reduced number of social-rent flats, managed by a housing association.

The whole is clad in a variegated, if somewhat bland, brick but Mæ has carved some sense of hierarchy, variety and urbanity from this, firstly by picking out the two-storey podium in a lighter, more orange stock. The entrance to the care facility, meanwhile, is marked by a colonnade-cum-porch facing the small forecour; a grander expression of double-height arches defines the base and entrance of the housing tower.

Sylwester Paczos, associate, Price & Myers

Almost complete, too, is the nearby Plot 18, which incorporates a medical centre designed by Morris+Company, with community health care and library facilities and a block of housing for the over-55s designed by HTA. In both these phases, what is impressive is the mix of community facilities and range of housing types that have been incorporated, in particular the provision of units and support facilities for older residents, where previously there had been none across the estate.

Alex Ely, director, Mæ

Its 54 extra care flats are stacked over five storeys, hiked up above a podium containing the communal care facility below. This in turn forms the core of the larger general residential Block S01, which also incorporates a community centre. Part of an HTA-designed 2014 masterplan, it is one of the first completed elements in Phase 1B of the controversial and long-gestating regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate in south London by Southwark Council. In this case, the funding didn’t come from some ancient endowment but from the sale of newly constructed market homes, enabled through the phased demolition of the estate’s original slab blocks. These were designed by architect Hans Peter ‘Felix’ Trenton and constructed using the Jespersen panel system between 1963 and 1977. They are being replaced by a higher-density, mixed tenure and more street-based pattern of terraced housing, contemporary mansion blocks and taller buildings.

This new block is not only beautifully designed to meet those needs, it encourages residents to stay involved with the diverse and thriving community that is developing around it.

In Block S01, the mix of uses and residential types is deftly handled. The extra care facility and communal rooms form a podium that wraps around the U-shaped block’s northern end and down its western arm. The entrance to this is at the north-west corner, marked by a small square created by the two sides of the U, only meeting at their inner point and being set at a slight angle, pulling away from each other. At the north-east corner is the entrance to the community centre. This occupies a chunk of the podium down the eastern arm of the U and contains three interconnected rooms, the largest one able to accommodate 100 seats.

Initially, all balconies were proposed to be precast and fabricated offsite but, thanks to careful detailing, it was possible to construct them in situ, which reduced lead times and simplified fixings. Other ‘heavy’ elements of the cladding, such as the precast feature canopies surrounding the entrances and brick arches for the colonnade, also posed a challenge to develop elegant and buildable details.

The methodology used followed standard approaches, but it was expanded and focused on specific details and challenges to bring everything together in a holistic way.

The new blocks replaced 1970s buildings, which were of large-panel precast concrete construction using the Jespersen System, similar to the infamous Ronan Point. The tie details were not employed consistently in the construction of these high-rise blocks, which complicated their removal.

Part of the reason we are redeveloping the Aylesbury Estate is to make sure we have more new homes that are of good quality and meet the needs of our current population. This includes people who want to live independently but might need a little bit of extra help.

Delivered at £2,300 per m², the solid quality and chunky generosity of materials and details that has been maintained into the final building is impressive, as is the choreography of different uses, facilities and residential types bedded within the whole. It’s a block that reveals itself slowly but one with a real centre of gravity, provided by the inner court and significantly helped by the retention of mature trees. Given that council budgets are stretched, a lot has been delivered here and articulated with subtlety and with skill.

The deck we are walking along is not long – only five flats open off it – but it is wide, with indented thresholds to the front doors and bigger punch-outs that overlook an inner courtyard with retained mature trees. In scale, it’s more verandah than corridor, offering framed views across to similar access decks opposite, partly veiled through tree canopy. Its width meanwhile, designed to meet Building Regulations Part M(4), allows ease of passage for wheelchairs and mobility aids.


Architect’s view

Complete demolition and phased redevelopment, surprisingly, still remains the default, even in the face of the climate emergency and the clear argument over wasteful replacement of housing. But recently at the Aylesbury Estate progress has been slow, with the pandemic, an uncertain housing market and steep material cost inflation complicating the search for development partners.


Client’s view


Working detail