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McGrath Road

by Peter Barber Architects

Client London Borough of Newham

Awards RIBA London Award 2021, Neave Brown Award for Housing 2021

© Morley von Sternberg

McGrath Road is one of a series of remarkable projects being built by Peter Barber Architects for Local Authorities and developers. It is one of several ‘Small Sites’ the practice has designed across London. The scheme comprises 26 new homes, all with either social rent, affordable rent or shared ownership tenures.

As well as its sheer inventiveness, the jury felt that the project made a strong contribution to the wider area; projecting its optimism, whilst managing to feel neighbourly. The architects have moulded a place of character both within the scheme and within the streetscape it serves. It seeks to reinforce the street, with front doors and kitchen/dining room windows at ground floor, all along its two street-facing elevations. Formed in the middle of the site is a delightful urban courtyard, which feels unapologetically European, inviting sociability and play.

The project occupies a small city block in brown brick, carved as if from one material. It’s hard up to the street, with no front gardens. Instead, there is a small defensible space for pots and plants within a series of deep two-storey arches, which help to give the scheme its signature look. In other hands this might be too hard, but with the playful windows and arches, the notched facades and galvanised steel balconies, its force of personality is irresistible.

Building up to the back of pavement allows space for other things to happen. A previous scheme for this site assumed a centrally placed block of flats; instead, the architects have worked with every inch of the site to unlock more homes for Newham, and as houses rather than flats. This approach has also been made possible by the remarkable typologies that the practice has been exploring both here and elsewhere. Here we have 4 storey back-to-back houses, 3 storey double-aspect houses, and bespoke corner flats that help knit the scheme together into a single entity.

This is a Local Authority-built scheme to make you smile. For all of its playfulness this is serious architecture; one which illustrates how imaginative street-based architecture can be socially progressive, and architecturally engaging. It’s a combination that endears Peter Barber Architects’ work to so many people and makes McGrath Road a worthy winner of the 2021 Neave Brown Award for Housing.

Internal Area 2,524 m²

Contractor Mulalley Construction

Structural Engineers Cook Associates

Environmental / M&E Engineers Whitecode

Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant John Rowan and Partners

Brick Manufacturer Modular Clay Solutions

Employers Agent John Rowan and Partners

© Morley von Sternberg
© Morley von Sternberg
© Morley von Sternberg
© Morley von Sternberg
© Peter Barber Architects
© Peter Barber Architects
© Peter Barber Architects
© Peter Barber Architects
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