Riches Hawley Mikhail Architects have been announced as winners of the competition to design sustainable affordable housing in the Suffolk village of Elmswell. This circa £2.9m development brings together Elmswell Parish Council, Inspire East (East of England Development Agency), Mid Suffolk District Council, Orwell Housing Association Ltd and the Suffolk Preservation Society.
The first phase of the competition attracted seventy-three Expressions of Interest from teams across the UK, Europe and North America. Riches Hawley Mikhail were selected from a strong shortlist that also included the following practices (in alphabetical order):
- Alison Brooks Architects Ltd
- Allies and Morrison Architects
- Foster Lomas
- Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects
- Henning Stummel Architects Ltd
The Jury Panel, which consisted of representatives from the partner organisations together with an architectural adviser from the RIBA (Walter Menteth, Walter Menteth Architects), was greatly impressed by the varied responses to the Vision Statement and the obvious enthusiasm and commitment that each team demonstrated for the project. The panel felt that the Riches Hawley Mikhail team had produced a subtle, poetic response which whilst highly efficient in terms of its land take, had skilfully resolved potential over-shadowing issues on the challenging site. The proposed use of rammed earth/chalk blocks was commended, whose on-site production would truly embrace the sustainable ethos behind the competition, as well as providing a link to Suffolk's past.
The partner organisations are looking forward to working with the Riches Hawley Mikhail team on their designs for the scheme, which they hope will act as an exemplar for other affordable housing developments.
Wendy Evans-Hendrick (Orwell Housing Association Ltd., Director of Development & Property Services) commented: 'The association was keen to ensure that both the design and development of the project resulted in an exception for affordable housing in the future. We are excited by the designs of RHM Architects and feel that both their innovative design and environmental approach will provide an example for the future of how affordable housing can be attractive, innovative and built to a tight budget.'
Richard Ward (Director, Suffolk Preservation Society) commented: 'The society is excited by the Riches Hawley Mikhail scheme that secures the very best design combined with true sustainability features. It incorporates techniques that reflect on building traditions of Suffolk but interprets them in a 21st Century way. It is therefore exactly the sort of scheme that the society was hoping for. Most of all, it provides flexible, affordable accommodation fit for family living requirements now and in the future.'
Peter Dow (Clerk to Elmswell Parish Council) commented: 'We look forward to working with this innovative team of architects to refine their exciting concept design through consultation and dialogue with the community, to provide much needed affordable housing in Elmswell and an example of practical sustainability for others to follow.'
Cllr Sara Michell (Portfolio Holder for Housing, Mid Suffolk District Council) said: 'Elmswell residents have a major stake in the project and we were impressed with the ability of this young and enthusiastic team of architects to engage with local people. We welcome this new and innovative cutting edge scheme which has the potential to evolve and develop over time. Although it is one of the more modern schemes submitted, it is thoroughly rooted in our heritage.'
Gwyn Jones (Inspire East, Executive Director) commented: 'Inspire East is evaluating the Elmswell Affordable Housing Competition and will be drawing out good practice lessons from the process as well as the final development. We will ensure that other housing associations, developers and local authorities in the region are able to learn from the experience in Elmswell to improve the quality of development in other parts of the Region.'