Newhall Be Harlow

“Newhall Be demonstrates the added value that good architects can bring to the thorny problem of housing people outside our major cities. By halving the size of the gardens – creating roof terraces in total equalling the land ‘lost’ – the architects fitted an extra eight houses on to the development. This paid for extras such as full-height windows, dedicated studies and convertible roof spaces.

The overall scheme raises the bar for suburban housing so that, if emulated, could and should have a significant impact on development across the country.

This is a fine achievement in its own right. In the context of much of the UK’s new house building it is truly exceptional.” – RIBA Stirling Prize judges

This project was the result of a competition where Alison invited a developer to join her in a design and development bid for a Phase of the ambitious Newhall development in Harlow, Essex. Her intention was to reinvent the English suburb as a form of Land Art, where the house designs and streetscapes would reflect a sculptural, geometric language and material palette drawn from the development Essex context. The scheme consists of 84 units across four building types; 5 Apartment buildings; 14 Villas; 29 Courtyard Houses and 7 Terraced Houses totalling 84 units, 26% of which are affordable.

The scheme’s geometric and material consistency was inspired by the powerful roof forms and simple materials of Essex’s rural buildings. These geometries bring light into terraced courtyards, allow rooms in the roof, permit oblique views to distant landscapes and introduce a sculptural rhythm to the scheme’s streetscapes. All housing types incorporate covered porches; central stair halls; roof terraces; Juliette balconies and cathedral ceilings. Loft spaces are either finished or can be retrofitted by homebuyers as additional bedrooms. Ground floor offices in each house animate the street and express the suburban home as an economically active, multi-functional form of social infrastructure.

The essence of our Newhall Be project is the terraced Courtyard House. These are a radical reconfiguration of the UK’s typical long and narrow 5m x 20m terraced house plot to a 9.5mx10.5m plot. This square plot permits a very wide house footprint, T-shaped with courtyard spaces or ‘outdoor rooms’ that interlock with kitchen/dining and living rooms. A covered front porch creates an important semi-public threshold. Inside, a very generous central hall – a critical element in all ABA house designs -offers both utility and a sense of spaciousness.

The Villas are two-storey, L-shaped in plan to provide a front parking court that maximizes south facing orientation and views to the street/landscape beyond. Covered front porches with balconies give the houses an open and inviting street presence. Central entrance halls lead to an open plan living, kitchen and family room that opens to the garden. Like the Courtyard House, a home office is the ‘shopfront’ facing the street.

Five Apartment blocks form important urban markers at street junctions, and act as gateways to the development. Holding 6 or 8 apartments each, their angled geometries give the facades a directionality that responds to orientation, also integrating their larger massing with the highly articulated forms of the adjacent houses. Upper floors clad in brick cantilever over the main entrances to provide a sheltered porch to communal entrances.

The Terraced Houses, are set back on their plots to provide south-facing front gardens. Each end house is pulled forward to create an enclosed ‘courtyard- like’ street. The terraces follow the scheme’s principles of a central hall, open plan living/dining and generous bedrooms, with a convertible loft space. Each house has 5.4 sqm of Photovoltaic roof tiling and rooflights that illuminate the central staircase.

All houses were constructed using prefabricated timber cassettes above a beam and block ground floor. This panelised, truss-free system permitted ‘room in the roof’ construction so owners can easily convert the attic space. Complete watertight houses were erected in two days. A simple palette of materials brings consistency and coherence to the scheme – black stained Siberian Larch; natural slates; composite windows and painted steel railings. Black porcelain tiled floors provide thermal mass for underfloor and passive solar heating.

Linden Homes , Galliford Try plc
Site Area
16,200 m²
Floor Area
8,200 m²
52 d/ha
Awards 9
  • Shortlisted: RIBA Stirling Prize
  • Housing Design Awards 2013: Supreme Winner
  • RIBA National Award
  • RIBA East Building of the Year
  • RIBA East Regional Award
  • British Home Awards: Small House of the Year
  • Building For Life Gold Standard
  • Housing Design Awards: Project Award
  • Shortlisted: Design Museum ‘Designs of the Year’
D&B Contractor
Galliford Try plc
Linden Homes
Waterman Boreham
Paul Riddle