Connected living spaces in A House For Artists. Image: courtesy of Apparata

Artist Grayson Perry and architecture studio Apparata have joined forces to create an affordable housing model for artists to live and work in London’s Barking.

A House For Artists will combine 12 apartments – leased at 65% of the local market rent – as well as studios and a community centre run by the residents. The Barking town centre project was commissioned by arts organisation Create London, of which Perry is an associate.

A House For Artists
View from Williams Street, showing the ground floor with public space and studios, and apartments above. Image: courtesy of Apparata

‘This is a golden opportunity for artists who want to work with the public,’ says Perry. ‘With the right artists working in a real place with real people, who knows where it will go? It’s a new artistic model.’

Apparata has designed the five-storey red brick building, featuring art studios and the community art centre on its ground floor, topped by flats.

Outdoor dining and workspaces will be shared by three apartments, which can open onto each other to allow co-living arrangements. Artists will be able host events together and share responsibilities like child care.

‘This idea of “co” extends throughout the design,’ says Nicholas Lobo Brennan, co-founder of Apparata, which also worked with Create London to turn Old Manor Park Library into a community arts hub in 2015. ‘Apartments can be combined, studios can open onto the community space and the facade features cut-outs which will welcome the neighbourhood into the building.’

Old Manor Park Library
London’s Old Manor Park Library – a Carnegie building turned into a community arts hub by Apparata and Create London. Photography: Emil Charlaff

A House For Artists (whose name echoes Perry’s A House For Essex project for Living Architecture) will provide a prototype for integrating artists into communities so they don’t get squeezed out when living costs rise.

Says Create London: ‘At a time when councils are struggling to build and manage existing community spaces – and artists are finding it increasingly hard to remain in London – we see this project as a pilot or model which could be replicated in other London boroughs.’

A House For Artists
Elevation of the building in relation to the shorter residential buildings and the taller commercial and residential blocks around it. Image: courtesy of Apparata

Apparata has drawn on international precedents. ‘We’ve been looking at examples in Switzerland, which has had substantial not-for-profit housing for over 100 years,’ explains Lobo Brennan, who was a founding member of Swiss architecture collective Gruppe. ‘Around 40% of the housing stock is provided by cooperatives and trusts, who often have community centres that engage with their localities. In the UK, we don’t have a support system for cooperatives like these.’

The architect points to an early 1950s example in Zurich: the Atelierhaus designed by Ernst Gisel, which is still running today. ‘It’s a not-for-profit project, featuring highly adaptable homes and studios. Walls can be added or removed, which is exactly what we’ve done with A House for Artists.’

A House For Artists
View of apartments with private living and dining room (shown with doors closed). Image: courtesy of Apparata

Each two-bedroom apartment will be 70 sq m – the minimum set by the London Housing Design Guide. ‘They will be simple industrial units, based on the warehouse model that’s so popular with artists,’ says Lobo Berran. ‘Many London developers are trying to make living spaces smaller, with clever space-saving arrangements. We don’t think it’s progress to squeeze down people’s living spaces.’

A House For Artists is expected to open in 2018. Residents will be chosen through an open invitation and interview by Perry, representatives of Create London, Barking and Dagenham Council, the Greater London Authority and independent curators. The project is part of the Barking Artist Enterprise Zone, whose mission is to provide long-term housing options for artists in the borough.

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