Unity Place transforms a part of the South Kilburn Estate, and collects RIBA London Award

13 May 2024

Unity Place

Unity Place is a key part of the South Kilburn Estate Regeneration programme, replacing two tower blocks with a contextual mid rise scheme, and providing 235 homes for social rent. It transforms an area that suffered from anti social behaviour, lack of social cohesion and crime, into a safe, inviting and coherent urban community.

Unity Place is a collaboration between Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects, Gort Scott and Grant Associates, delivered by RM_A Architects and was one of 40 projects recognised in the RIBA London awards. FCBStudios created the masterplan, reinstating historic routes and links with the wider area, and set out a design approach for the scheme that enhances not only the living conditions of existing residents, but also complements the area’s architectural heritage.

The judges citation describes the scheme:

“A key element in the 15-year South Kilburn Regeneration Programme, Unity Place transforms the area with a neighbourhood of 235 social rent homes designed to integrate with its surroundings. It not only seeks to significantly enhance the living conditions of existing residents but also to complement the area’s architectural heritage, especially nearby St Augustine’s Church. The scheme offers 100% affordable homes across a mix of sizes and unit types, from one-bed single-floor flats to four-bed two-storey maisonettes, alongside community-focused amenities such as a hub, landscaped areas, publicly accessible playspace and parking. It also features an energy centre for the wider South Kilburn estate. Infrastructure constraints and the proximity to conservation areas and listed buildings posed challenges for the design, which the architects met with a varied but unified scheme to reinstate historical street patterns, harmonising high-density housing with surrounding low- to medium-rise buildings through contextually sympathetic materials.

During the jury’s visit, residents expressed their delight with the project and their accommodation in different ways.

RIBA Jury Citation

The jury was impressed with how the three design architects, supported by delivery architect RM_A, have worked together under a unified design approach which draws inspiration from local housing typologies, including terraces, mansion blocks, and villas, to forge a feeling of community and continuity. With buildings ranging between four and eight storeys and doors onto streets, there is a sense of strongly defined streetscapes, active frontages, and a cogent urban block layout. All this helps to restore appropriate character and scale and a sense of domesticity to the neighbourhood. This is further reinforced by the use of handset bricks and other contextual materials to help blend with the largely Victorian context in a family of buildings which express their individuality through secondary materials and varying roof forms.

During the jury’s visit, residents expressed their delight with the project and their accommodation in different ways. Extensive resident consultations had informed the development’s design, emphasising culturally appropriate housing with preferences for internal corridors and separate kitchens. The project prioritised wellbeing through excellent natural light, cross ventilation and acoustic separation. In addition, passive surveillance and resident privacy create a sense of retreat, balanced with the offer of threshold and communal outdoor spaces rich in biodiversity.

Overheating analysis and site geometry enabled maximisation of east–west-facing homes (with none north-facing), and 65% are dual aspect to optimise cross ventilation, many with full-width balconies facing the afternoon and evening sun. A high-performing thermal envelope with excellent levels of airtightness is improved with shallow floorplates and good solid-to-glass ratios which maximise daylight while minimising heat gains and losses. The scheme demonstrates a proactive approach to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing material longevity, aligning closely with the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets.”

Rotherhithe Primary School was also awarded a regional award at the RIBA London Awards ceremony.