Gone are the grey high-rise flats of old – tenants on the Elmington Estate in south London now enjoy award-winning brick terraced housing designed by a team of top architects

Tenants who have been rehoused in the redeveloped Elmington estate must regard themselves as quite lucky. For in place of dreary high-rise living, they now have human-scale housing that includes an abundance of colour, form and detail, not to mention an emphasis on security.

Located in the Camberwell area of south London, the redevelopment of the Elmington estate is one of five such initiatives undertaken in the area by the Peckham Partnership – an alliance that includes developers, housing associations, Southwark Council and various architects.

Four years ago, a phased redevelopment programme began to move existing tenants into affordable new homes. To date, 134 homes have been completed. Architect BPTW has designed 73 of these and was also involved at the masterplanning stage. A third phase is planned that aims to provide some homes for private sale.

Brick is the backbone of the new layout and stitches together the enormous architectural variety of this scheme. As at the Stonebridge estate – also reviewed in this issue (see pages 12-13) – the two- and three-storey houses are arranged as traditional street terraces and courtyards. Street corners are marked by medium-rise apartment blocks that are designed to act as punctuation points to the terraces.

The architect has given the estate a traditional street pattern with the maximum number of front doors, public frontages and private rear gardens. These measures, along with the controlled overlooking between neighbouring properties, serve to increase the real and perceived sense of security that should help minimise crime. Similar measures used on other Peckham schemes have proved effective.

Brick was chosen as being most representative of the local townscape, and to provide a durable, low-maintenance finish. It has been used imaginatively to provide different vistas that give the scheme the refreshing variety that is evident throughout. Its appearance is maximised when contrasted with the timber cladding and render that are also used on the scheme, helping to give each home its own identity.

Changes of brickwork colour are often used to signify advancing or receding planes – even if only by 25 mm – providing shadow lines as well as excellent locations for hiding movement joints. The overall effect is of layered elevations that are a delight to behold. Here and there, accent colour is introduced using delicious mint green glazed bricks that contrast vividly with the overall orange brick colour, particularly where used as alternating stripes. And simply projecting every fourth brick in a brick-on-edge course by 20 mm has produced an understated yet elegant dentil course.

To complement the general stretcher bond brickwork, stack bonding is used intermittently to provide contrast around entrances, as a spandrel between paired windows, on projecting bays and to articulate exposed corners. Generally the brickwork is to a high standard, but stack bonding needs extra care in both setting out and laying and this could have been better achieved. Throughout this scheme, brick-and-block walls with 100 mm partially filled cavities were used throughout, in conjunction with monopitch roofs, beam-and-block ground floors and timber first floors.

The Elmington Estate was named Best Public Housing Development in the 2004 Brick Awards and has also earned the architect a CABE Building for Life Silver Standard. In both cases, it is a deserving winner.

For further details, call the BDA on 01344-885651

Project team

client London Borough of Southwark
architect  BPTW Partnership
QS Carlford Seaden Partnership
structural engineer Brand Leonard Consulting Engineers
brickwork contractor Galostar
main contractor Countryside Properties