Applying the EDG in practice: Social housing
Development name: The Echoes
Location: Grays, Essex
Size: 0.39 Hectares
Architect: Bell Phillips Architects
Developer: Thurrock Council
Accommodation type: 53no. flats; 13no. 1-beds, 33no. 2-beds and 7no. 3-beds.
The Echoes is a new social housing scheme by Bell Phillips Architects in Grays, comprising 53 homes for social rent. Part of Thurrock Council’s goal to provide 20,000 new homes within five years, the development places a strong emphasis on high quality design, construction and sustainability, serving as an illustration of what can be achieved and setting the benchmark for housing quality in the borough. The development aims to reinforce a sense of social identity and civic pride amongst residents, within an area currently characterised by outdated post-war homes.
Following an extensive study of council-owned sites the Echoes’ site was identified as a location with great potential for development. The former car park is close to the town centre and associated amenities, while it is bordered to one side by a train line, allowing the development to rise to six storeys without having a negative impact on surrounding residences. Within easy walking distance to Grays Railway Station and the town centre, the project is also sustainable and accessible.
The scheme has been designed as three separate buildings, rising from three to six storeys. In contrast to the predominately post war units surrounding the site, The Echoes provides a strong street presence that is articulated by an undulating roof line – designed to maximise natural light into neighbouring buildings - and a series of cantilevering triangular balconies that hint at the panoramic views across the Thames Estuary. Formed of galvanised steel with perforated anodised aluminium cladding, these balconies are an example of the breakaway from typical public housing typologies, giving the development a unique identity that is specific to the site context.
At the heart of the development is a communal garden incorporating hard and soft landscaping and seating. All of the flats are accessed via the communal garden ensuring that the space is active, well-used and social enhancing social cohesion and wellbeing.
Also incorporated into the design is a two-storey community centre, replacing a dated but important local facility previously located in a portacabin on the site. Though the design of the community centre can be read as one with the residential units, the building is physically separated to appear a part of the wider region. While the housing is orientated toward a quiet residential street, the community centre fronts a key route into the town, where large levels of glazing create a highly active and visible façade projecting the activities of the community towards the town. The community centre brings the new residents together with the wider community, offering space for meetings, functions and parties. The community hub has ensured that The Echoes leaves a long lasting legacy within the community, helping to make Thurrock a better place to live.
In 2017 The Echoes won an RIBA East Award with the judges stating; “This is an impressive addition to Thurrock’s housing stock that has met the challenges of an awkward site in a playful and imaginative way.”
Page updated: 25/04/2023