Darbishire Place, London

Darbishire Place at Peabodyʼs Whitechapel Estate in East London completes an ensemble of 6 housing blocks surrounding an internal courtyard; the original block having been destroyed during World War II. With a budget in keeping with typical Peabody affordable housing projects, the scheme is comprised of 13 new one, two, three and four bed units, 54% of which are affordable. The design respects the massing and characteristics of the existing buildings on the estate and continues the idea of ʻopen cornersʼ, promoting easy pedestrian access and views between the courtyard and the surrounding streets.

Urban design was carefully considered, the eastern façade of new block aligns fronts John Fisher Street and aligns with Block E to the north, while the south end relates closely to the adjacent Block J. The new building has a chamfered southwest corner allowing views and light into the courtyard and creating a new pedestrian link between the spaces.

Planning constraints were within normal planning policy, the estate is not located in a conservation area, however the Conservation Officer took a particular interest due to the significance of the surrounding Peabody housing blocks, which were designed by Henry Darbishire in the 1870s. The existing blocks are 5 stories with repetitive window patterns reflecting their internal layouts. The openings are formed with brick reveals that are painted white, adding to the buildingsʼ particular Italianate character.

The facades in the new building make a respectful reference to the surrounding buildings with the contrast between the external brick skin and the deep window reveals repeated and accentuated. The reveals are formed from prefabricated GRC blocks and occur around each window and balcony. These deep reveals taper to a fine edge creating sharp repetitive frames and a compelling play of light and shadow across the facades.

The main entrance is from the courtyard side of the building, in keeping with the other blocks. It leads into a lobby that opens up towards the lift and the bottom of the staircase. The central circulation space, which tenants pass through every day, is flooded with natural light from the windows above. The staircase winds its way up around a dramatic central void, which creates visual connections between the landings.

The internal layouts are arranged around the single stair and lift core that provides access to 13 units over 5 floors. Most of their habitable rooms are oriented south or west, away from John Fisher Street where windows are subject to traffic noise. The building is Part M compliant and has a wheelchair accessible flat to the north of the ground floor.

The large balconies to the new flats are internal to maintain the solid and object-like character of the new building. They are open to at least two sides with nearly fullwidth openings and a low solid balustrade to maximise daylight into the living rooms located adjacent to them.

Design work on the project commenced in 2010, construction started on site in 2012 and the building was handed over in December 2014.

Project Team:

Client: Peabody Housing
Architect: Níall McLaughlin Architects
Building Contractor: Sandwood Design and Build
Quantity Surveyor: Pellings
Structural Engineers: Ellis and Moore
Environmental Engineers: Nifes