Thackrah Close

London N2- UK


In 2012 The Finchley Charities commissioned Hampson William Architecture to provide a design for additional sheltered housing accommodation at their existing site at Wilmot Close, East Finchley, in North London. There was a housing need for further one bedroom units for applicants on their waiting list. Space for the potential development was identified in the North-West Corner of the existing land. This was an underutilised sloping grassed area which was an ideal spot for the new development for further accommodation for older adults in need of Sheltered Housing. The land backed onto the Font Hill Estate to the west and Allotments to the north, beyond which lay the London North Circular Road.

The proximity of the North Circular was a significant issue, but it was felt that a suitably designed building could overcome the issues of noise and air pollution and indeed improve the amenity of residents in existing units.

The charity’s vision and design brief was, firstly, to achieve a high quality adaptable and sustainable design that would provide affordable and accessible lifelong homes equipped with modern telecare for its residents in order to meet current and future care and support needs. 

Secondly, the design had to be robust, low maintenance, a highly energy efficient building with good security and fully compliant with the latest fire regulations.

The third criteria was that the design had to be tranquil, feel spacious and full of light and be a joyful place to live.  The new homes had to integrate into the existing community with all the positive feelings of health and wellbeing, support, friendship and doing things together.

The challenge was to create homes for the over 55’s with access to a new garden area encouraging residents to spend time talking and meeting outside their personal homes.

In terms of physical appearance, design cues were taken from the original Almshouses, which still exist at the South of the site. These traditional Arts and Crafts buildings have a reassuring, traditional quality and are perceived as appropriate for the use envisaged. Their use of traditional materials which exude a quality of workmanship was seen as benchmark against which any new design would be considered.

This is of course a 21st century solution and the design principles of this building form have been stripped back and reinterpreted in a more contemporary style. First Floor accommodation is wrapped in a slate roof and punching through it are zinc metal clad dormer windows. These hard roofing materials contrast with the ground floor walls that are clad in traditional timber shingles which will soften and grey over time, creating a very domestic interface to the courtyard. Materials are robust, and need very little maintenance. The timber is a warm natural material which gives a fantastic feeling of wellbeing.  The solution harmonises with the existing structures and the surrounding landscape.  The courtyard uses timber planters, the edges set at sitting level, the planters have a mixture of general plants and herbs and space to grow residents plants aided by the Residents Garden Club.  The planting areas have been designed around the three retained trees which give a shaded canopy.

The scheme was therefore designed in a basic L form with four blocks, two storey to match the height of existing adjacent homes, each block with four units, acting as a shield to the rest of the existing site, creating a landscaped courtyard with both private and communal areas, protected from the noise of the busy trunk road. The rear of this block was designed to be as acoustically robust as possible, with thick masonry walls and uprated acoustic glazing. All the living and bedroom spaces face onto the landscaped south facing courtyard and the ground floor residents have direct access into the courtyard.

All units follow a similar floor plan with large bedrooms and ample contemporary shower rooms.  All are wheelchair accessible on the ground floor. There are two slightly larger homes which are adaptable wheelchair accessible units.  Kitchens are semi open plan to the living room, which allows light to spill into the units from both sides. This light is filtered through to the inner hallway by integrating clear story fanlights above all internal doors. The living, dining, kitchen areas are large and the window size has been increased on the courtyard side in order to maximise light and enhance the views across the lushly planted courtyard. Each ground floor home has a private level access entrance door to the gardens.

The gardens have been designed very carefully to include high quality lighting design to reinforce the feeling of living in a safe and secure environment, the planter design is timber and paving is light in colour using simple robust materials, all of these improve and enhance health and wellbeing. Great thought and care was taken by the design team to ensure the external grounds and gardens provided access for all residents to use and enjoy, importantly including residents with limited mobility, wheelchair users and residents with sensory impairments.

The result of all of this is a beautifully crafted building and gardens providing a delightful place to live in an existing community.  The Almshouses have been reinterpreted and now have all the benefits of the 21st century.

The building has received very positive coverage and has won Best Inclusive Development at the Inside Housing Development Awards 2018 and Alms House Association Award for Excellence and Inspiration 2019 and on the shortlist for the Almshouse Patron’s Award. 2019.