Car-free housing built around a communal green space
Following the completion of Wansey Street, the pilot housing scheme for the ambitious regeneration of the Elephant & Castle, we were selected to develop the Harper Square site, which would form the next phase of social housing developed by Family Mosaic Housing.
The complicated site had to work hard to reconcile a competing assortment of apartment blocks, school buildings and public open space. Isolated dwellings floated in a poorly defined grassy space that neither supported community use nor provided private garden amenity. And it was a sense of community above all that we wanted to encourage and develop through the new scheme.
CollaboratorsStructural Engineer Yes Engineering
M&E consultant Yes Engineering
Sustainability consultant Bailey Garner LLP
Cost consultant Philip Pank Partnership
Landscape consultant Kinnear Landscape Architect
Principal designer Philip Pank Partnership
Our aspiration throughout was to create a high-quality, ‘car-free’ housing scheme comprising 72 social rented and intermediate affordable homes.
A communal green space forms the heart of the scheme, referencing traditional London Squares and the 1960s SPAN developments. This was to support different activities for different age groups and interests. To foster a sense of neighbourliness and wider, collective community, apartments were clustered in smaller individual buildings, then linked with shared stairwells to create a cohesive whole. Levels of community are reiterated with the façade of green glazed terra cotta tiles, which also serve to reflect the landscaped heart.
The majority of the units are ‘through’ apartments, with rooms on both the street and garden that maximise light and natural cross ventilation. Homes on the ground floor have terraces, offering private outdoor space, while stepped rooftop levels provide private terraces and biodiversity for upper floors.
Images: Community and neighborliness Levels of community are reiterated with the façade of green glazed terra cotta tiles, which also serve to reflect the landscaped heart. 
Community and neighborliness Levels of community are reiterated with the façade of green glazed terra cotta tiles, which also serve to reflect the landscaped heart. 
The arrangement of individual buildings with naturally lit circulation not only fosters communities and contributes to the social sustainability but forms the basis of the energy strategy.
The development of a community spirit for the area depended on people having a greater sense of control over decisions being made, so we placed great emphasis on community consultation in our approach to the scheme. As a result, we used the Section 106 contribution to invest directly in an enhancement to the landscape around the base of the neighbouring Symington House. The nature of the collaboration was applauded by the Planning Committee, who considered the success of this relationship as an exemplar for how community involvement should work.
All units benefit from double aspect with opposing facades, allowing for passive through ventilation and night time cooling.
Control of excessive solar gains in the summer and encouraging gains in the winter whilst controlling glare through provision of full height adjustable sliding screens, which also serve to animate the facade and bring control to the appearance of private terraces. This anticipates further climate change and will become a more prevelant solution to avoid active cooling.
Green and brown roofs enhance the ecological value of the site and provide additional water attenuation to the site in anticipation of changing rain patterns. The water storage capacity is further increased through underground water attenuation tanks within the landscaped courtyard.