Witherford Watson Mann draws on traditional almshouses for Appleby Blue senior housing

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Local studio Witherford Watson Mann aimed to “set a new benchmark” for inner-city older people‘s accommodation with Appleby Blue, a social housing development in Southwark, London, for over-65s.

Designed for and managed by the United St Saviour’s Charity, the development replaces a former care home on the site that had fallen into disrepair. It includes 57 new apartments and communal facilities, including a courtyard and garden room.

Appleby Blue is a social housing development for people over 65

Witherford Watson Mann sought to challenge what they saw as the typical ideas of retreat and seclusion in older people’s housing, instead creating an “active, open and shared building” that engaged with the surrounding city.

The practice drew on the historic typology of almshouses – a form of low-cost sheltered housing provided by a private charity for the elderly often arranged around a courtyard – and “flipped” it to have a closer relationship with the city and street.

The building was informed by traditional almshouses

“It has become increasingly common practice to relocate over 60s away from urban centres, pushed or incentivised to the city edge or the coast,” explained director Steven Witherford.

“Yet, as people live longer and remain active later in life, not everyone wants to withdraw from the bustle of the city; on the contrary, many wish to remain close to the neighbourhoods they have spent their lives in,” he continued.

Apartments overlook a central garden courtyard

“We wanted to develop an innovative almshouse that catered to the needs and desires of Southwark residents who wanted to grow old in a vibrant, modern inner-city environment,” added United St Saviour’s CEO Martyn Craddock.

The five-storey block was designed to “extend the grain of the Victorian streets”, incorporating bay windows and cut-outs that make room for street-level planting.


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To the north, Appleby Blue meets the street with a fully-glazed two-storey volume, creating a light-filled entrance and porch and a visual connection through to a double-height garden room.

Once inside, the ground floor contains a variety of communal functions including a community kitchen, cookery school, hairdressers and lounge.

It features a rooftop garden with raised beds

The apartments themselves surround a central courtyard garden, designed by Grant Associates and conceived as an “abstract woodland glade” with a cascading water feature, trees and flower beds.

Each level overlooks this space from a communal, street-like paved walkway off which each apartment is entered. This featues places to sit and socialise and is lined with oak-framed sliding screens.

Oak-lined interiors provide space for socialising

“The acoustics of the space coupled with the sound of the water feature combine to create a relaxing, sanctuary-like space for residents and visitors, whilst remaining just a few feet away from the local transport links that connect them into the city,” said the studio.

Towards the rear of the site the block steps down to two storeys, topped by a garden with raised beds for growing herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Witherford Watson Mann recently featured on the shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize 2023 for its “studious and bold” renovation of The Courtauld Gallery in London.

The photography is by Philip Vile.

The post Witherford Watson Mann draws on traditional almshouses for Appleby Blue senior housing appeared first on Dezeen.

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