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Southill Older Persons Accommodation (2013 - 2014)
Award Type:Silver Housing Medal
The project was commissioned by the Limerick Regeneration Agency as part of a Vision Plan for the Regeneration of Southill. The brief required 34 apartments for older persons together with a caretaker’s apartment, guest room for visiting family members and a communal facility to serve as a social centre for residents. Underpinning the brief was the principle that the design should be a catalyst in both the social and physical regeneration of the area, generating a sense of pride, empowerment, ownership and mutual respect – all of which are typically lacking in areas of disadvantage and social exclusion.
The project responds to the need of an aging generation to interact with the broader community of Southill while feeling safe, secure and protected. At its core, the project looks to create a private, central landscaped garden that would form the heart of this new community. The aspiration was to create spacious, bright apartments within a garden setting that would encourage casual interaction between neighbours and foster a sense of communality and belonging.
The project, conceived to some extent in the spirit of ‘Alms Houses’, proposes a continuous built perimeter varying from single-storey to three-storey in height. This perimeter block addresses and animates both Colivet Drive and the New Street to the west while providing a scale and expression that has the capacity to address future road layouts proposed within the masterplan.
The buildings vary in height in response to the varying scale of the adjacent grain and the desire to maximise sunlight within the development. A three-storey apartment building marks the eastern ‘head’ of the site, terminating the view down Donaghmore Crescent.
A new terrace along Colivet Drive is expressed at first floor as a series of blocks separated by external terraces screened by vertical concrete fins. A mono-pitch roof maximizes the height of this terrace onto Colivet Drive, sloping down to the north so as to allow sunlight to penetrate into the residents’ garden. A section of this mono-pitch roof tilts back up to form a series of ‘towers’ that address the inner court. The south-facing roofs of these ‘towers’ accommodate photovoltaic panels as part of the overall energy strategy for the project.
A similar approach applies the northern block where a mono-pitched roof again slopes down to the inner court, thus reducing the scale of the buildings that surround this residential amenity. Each end of this terrace is articulated to resolve the corner conditions.
The community building to the west end of the site forms a single-storey perimeter ‘wall’ to the adjacent street, its reduced height maximizing the penetration of evening sun into the central garden. This building forms an entrance to the inner garden and contains a communal living room together with tea station and ‘snug’ as part of shared facilities for the residents together with meeting rooms which may be used by community groups and visiting services such as district nurse. An adjacent caretaker’s flat provides 24hr supervision of the entrance and the inner garden.
The project is designed to provide animated and active street frontages to the outer face of the perimeter, while also creating similarly active internal elevations to the inner garden. Buildings surrounding the garden court have been designed to provide life and communal activity to this most important space while not detracting from the activity on the streets. Access to apartments is therefore appropriately varied to achieve this goal.
Ground floor apartments within the southern block are accessed directly from the street with sheltered south facing porches providing passive supervision and animated frontages. Kitchen windows overlook the street, while benches within the porches allow residents to sit in the sun chatting to neighbours. The upper units of the southern block are accessed from the street via stair halls which also provide to the internal garden creating thresholds and active frontage to this inner space. Apartments in the northern block are accessed from shared stair cores which open onto the central garden.