The Northwold estate in Hackney has around 580 homes. Built in the 1930s, it was extended in the 1950s, and in 2009 the estate stock-transferred to the Guinness Partnership housing association. In 2016 Guinness announced it was going to regenerate the estate, and subsequently planned to demolish and redevelop half the estate. In September 2016 residents invited Architects for Social Housing into their Love Northwold campaign. Over the next 9 months we worked with residents to try to save their homes, advising them on the tactics that would be employed against them and some of the things they might want to do and not do in setting up their campaign.
As part of this community support we published several articles making the Save Northwold campaign known to a wider audience, with The Future of Northwold Estate being read by over 1,800 people, and The Consultation Game exposing the Guinness Partnership’s pre-consultation plans for the partial demolition of the estate and the financial motivations for doing so. We also held several open meetings with residents, the first in November 2016, when we discussed what estate ‘regeneration’ would mean for residents, and another in April 2017, when we presented the alternatives to demolition, as well as numerous smaller meetings with campaigners. Finally, with the collaboration of architect Douglas Wong and the Architectural Workers, ASH produced a preliminary design alternative to the planned demolition of half the Northwold estate.
Our design alternatives for infill development on disused land and roof extensions on top of existing blocks found space for 245 additional flats, with the refurbishment of 18 disused flats, for a total of 843 homes. This compared with the 846 properties proposed by TM Architects, who had been employed by the Guinness Partnership to push through the demolition of 154 existing homes and the construction of 420 new properties. However, unlike their redevelopment proposals, ASH’s design proposals achieved this 42 per cent increase in the housing capacity of the estate without demolishing a single existing home or evicting a single one of the current residents. This would allow the tenure of the new flats to be for social rent, rather than the market sale and affordable rent properties required to replace the 154 demolished homes.
In February 2018 the Guinness Partnership announced that it had scrapped its plans to demolish the Northwold estate, and were now looking at building 100 new homes using available land without demolishing the existing buildings. ASH received no payment for the hundreds of hours of design, written and community work we put into this campaign: neither from the Guinness Partnership, who appear to have adopted the principles of our design alternatives to demolition, nor from the Love Northwold campaign. But before history passes over it, we thought we’d recall how we helped save the Northwold Estate.
Photographs of ASH’s consultation with resident in April 2017 are by Alessia Gammarota
Architects for Social Housing
Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (no. 10383452). Although we do occasionally receive minimal fees for our design work, the majority of what we do is unpaid, and we have no source of public funding. If you would like to support our work financially, please make a donation through PayPal: