Starting out as a feasibility study into the possibility of social housing on a site adjacent to the existing and well used Crook Community Leisure facility, we supported the community organisation through the process of securing Homes England funding to develop a scheme up to planning. 


The semi-rural, or countryside, condition – within which the development site is located – is typified by layered spaces of often conflicting utility. Furthermore these catagories can be seen to overlap and shift over time – consider the transformation of industrial rail-lines to heritage assets and cycle routes. Even the natural landscape – most typically associated with the countryside – is not free of these contradictions, often planted on reclaimed land or productive in the form of managed forests, such as Hamsterley, and farms. The proposed development draws reference from these typologies – both historic and contemporary – in use, form and material, harnessing the energy of the proximity of formal and ad-hoc – as seen in the juxtaposition of farmhouses and adjacent barns.


The predominant typology of dwelling in the locale is that of the 2 storey terrace. Most of the existing properties around the site adopt this form and accordingly it has been adopted for the proposed dwellings on the site, ensuring a sympathy for the character of the context. A particular variation of this typology that has informed the development proposals is the aged miner homes – typically bungalows – that were built in many of the ex-mining towns to house those miners injured or retired from the pits. A key element of these is a small covered space to the front of the properties – a liminal space for engaging with the social world – that often took the form of a veranda or canopy with a bench and gave these units an outward facing character to combat the potential isolation of the unit from the wider terrace and town.


The project draws from our research into the provision and use of collective space within housing developments, particularly the hobby rooms at Byker in Newcastle. Hobby activity provides a productive focus for social gathering – gathering individuals through shared interest to stimulate formal and informal community groups. Framing public space through the lens of hobby activity allows these spaces to be distinctive and purposeful, open to appropriation but benefiting from indicators that point toward specific, complimentary uses that support social gathering. Accordingly, these spaces offer the potential for social interaction and activity – tackling exclusion and social isolation – as well as informal space for skills learning and enterprise.



Crook Community Leisure


Technical Design


2018 – Present


Drawing from the varied identities of the semi-rural landscape – as formal and productive – the site layout and elevational treatment seek to respond to both, by creating a carefully proportioned and ‘formal’ outward face to the main street frontages sheltering an ‘informal’ elevation of timber facing the private gardens to the rear of the properties.


Outwardly a unified elevation presents a coherent and collective appearance where the individual units are read as subservient to the overall collective forms, with the predominantly buff brick evoking the sandstone facades of larger civic buildings.


In contrast, the rear space is created for personal adaption, individual expression and appropriation, with extruded party walls visually dividing the terrace facades into separate units and a corresponding enabling materiality reflecting the DIY character of fencing, sheds, pergolas and lean-tos.

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