House 4 Life

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Salford, UK. 2010

Alms Houses in Ghent
Interior model photograph
Johannes Vermeer, Het Straatje
Landscape Plan
Kloster Sanct Gallen
House Plan Matrix
A - Family
A - Live/work
B - Family
C - Family
C - Lifetime Home
C - Live/work
D - Family
E - Lifetime Home
F - Lifetime Home
Base house

The site sits on the periphery of the city centre, a barren tarmac wilderness, planted with parked cars and guarded by the wall of the railway. The scale and grain of the urban fabric has become considerably coarser over time. As neighbourhoods of workers’ houses have been demolished the buildings that service a community such as public houses, schools, churches, halls, clubs and bath houses have disappeared leaving residents isolated in towers. The potential for meeting and community that previously existed has been lost.

The vernacular back alley provides a historical precedent for the creation of a certain type of community space - a shared world, away from the public street that pushes hard against the homes of its inhabitants and takes the place of a fenced suburban garden. More than a hidden maze of corridors the back alley provided a valuable social infrastructure connecting the private interior of the home to an intermediate community, providing opportunities for children to play safely, parents to meet and neighbours to congregate as well as informally linking residents to the more formal elements of the community in pubs, schools, clubs and churches.

The proposal re-establishes this condition by the creation of a shared, community landscape within which the housing sits. The extent of the geometric and natural planting areas cannot be experienced in their entirety from any one point, suggesting a generosity of scale beyond that of an urban house.

The accommodation is in houses disposed as blocks in a richly landscaped urban quarter. The blocks are composed of different variants of a standard house type allowing great flexibility in the creation of a dense and sustainable urban community. The design provides individual houses with their origins in a single aspect two storey dwelling that can be arranged and incrementally developed to give a variety of houses to cater for a varied and developing community. The base house shares the approximate footprint of a terraced house but is re-orientated to face a generous courtyard garden. Rather than an orientation to the front and rear resulting in a dark interior, the rooms are arranged along the long elevation to face onto the private garden or towards the community landscape with generous windows maximising natural light.

Project status
Shortlisted competition entry

Competition Date

Salford City Council

1.45 hectares 


Michael Lee Architects

Structural Engineer

Environmental Engineer
Max Fordham

Landscape Architect
Vogt Landscape

Quantity Surveyor
Jackson Coles