Journey through Common House

Entrance 'street'

The main entrance to the common house is situated to the north west of the site off Palmerston Road. When entering the building residents and visitors are welcomed by a lively flexible communal space, a place to sit and drink in the bustle of friends coming and going with a view down within the double height space to the shared kitchen below. Small niches off this lively communal street allow for a variety of uses, quieter spaces for working or reading a book while still being part of the communal living room/street.

The services entrance and quickest route to the main core is situated to the south west of the site entrance. This acts as the threshold between the external common courtyard to the centre of the plan and the street entrance. This area includes bin stores and bicycle racks that sit just off the courtyard space. All units are accessed from this shared deck access, with all visitors and residents having to cross over the main courtyard space to the stair and lift to access units at upper levels. The courtyard and communal deck areas, (widening and slimming depending on the use directly in front of the deck) are therefore buzzing with activity and the residents acting as custodians to this key shared space.

Model photo — Looking north


The Hub

View from shared kitchen

Shared Kitchen

The hub of the common house is the double height shared kitchen and dining space that is accessed from the staircase in the communal entrance street.

This key space for the residents is currently positioned in the lower ground floor facing east where sun will bathe the space and the courtyard immediately in front. The shared kitchen opens up to this courtyard allowing for tables and chairs to be pulled out through the glazed doors for events or summer evening parties.

This communal space is robust with exposed blockwork and metal railings, with warmth added by the choice of furniture and timber flooring. The space is generous in height and views, and a space where you can view and understand the parameters of the residents common house.


Co-Living provides an innovative way to create homes, which are affordable and promote a strong sense of community. The brief has yielded some truly imaginative designs from all the competitors, which are also sensitive to their urban setting. Faced with so many great ideas, choosing a winner has been a truly challenging task. In the end the scheme produced by Duggan Morris was selected for its flexibility, durability and the quality of the communal environment, designed around a spacious and well-proportioned central courtyard. They showed great commitment to the cause of co-living and obvious drive for realising this exciting project, and the jury recognised that these are attributes which will be essential in the next stage of its delivery.

Hugh Broughton, RIBA Adviser


Flexible Studios

At each level private studios are accessed from the shared walkways, with the entrances set back to allow for an increase to their private threshold to be appropriated with plants and seating to be enjoyed on sunny days.

The studios are designed as modules, allowing for the modules to be connected horizontally and vertically to create larger units for families or changing circumstances.

The plan is set up on a grid to maximise the courtyard space and to ensure that each studio has front facing windows into the external shared courtyard and walkways. As the studios are modular and set up on a grid this also allows for flexibility between private and communal space, flats can be removed and replaced with communal space or vice versa allowing for flexibility over time for the changing circumstances of the residents.

The simple metal structure of the deck and the painted steel railings allow for views accross the deck however also act as a veil between the units aiding privacy while providing a generous communal external space for each resident.

View from typical unit (north facing)

Views from and to Common House

The site at Forest gate is landlocked by a variety of buildings including a mosque, hotel and housing with a recent planning permission for a new build three storey commercial and residential development to the west of the site. As the common house is surrounded the intent for each space is to have main windows looking internally into the shared courtyard. However dual aspect windows to upper level studio spaces is a welcome bonus to the scheme creating improved light and views to these upper spaces. These windows to the external facade are therefore flexible in their location, size and whether the glazing is transparent or opaque.

As the courtyard is maximised in width and length the courtyard is bathed in light for most of the day as shown in the attached sunlight path diagrams, and reveals the north west portion of the courtyard receives the most light for the majority of the day, this is where we have positioned the key communal spaces.

The external appearance of the facade acts as a simple addition to the local neighbouring buildings giving the appearance of a large garden 'shed' which sits comfortably in its surroundings, simple in its construction and sympathetic in its form to reflect the pitched roofs of its neighbours.



Each shortlisted team provided an imaginative and sensitive response to the concept of Co-living. Here is an image of Co-living from each of the four other shortlisted teams.

Delvendahl Martin Architects
Knox Bhavan Architects
vPPR Architects