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12/50 Mothers Square

A quiet hand in many HTA projects is that of founding partner Edward Burd who visited the practice for lunch in 2018 one last time, sadly passing away in the Autumn. Edward was always a thoughtful leader and supportive of the Architects in his team as their designs developed, his contribution to HTA continues to be held in high regard by the currrent Partners.

Among his projects is Mothers’ Square in Hackney. In the hands of Project Architect Ian Chown, who designed a, now Iconic, mixed-use scheme redeveloped on the site of Mothers’ Hospital. Working to a tight budget for Newlon Housing Trust, Access Homes Housing Association and the City & Hackney Health District a new and distinctive placemaking project. The building provides a 20 bed day hospital for older people with mental illness, 25 sheltered housing flats and 21 houses, 24 shared ownership flats and 6 flats for rent. The site includes six listed late Georgian houses fronting Lower Clapton Road behind which the mix of uses is arranged around a unifying square. In its concept the aim was to integrate a mixed community with varying needs at various stages of life.

The different uses are organised behind a single unifying façade around a square providing shared outdoor space for all residents at the front, and private family gardens to the rear. 

The square is a play space, a focus of views as well as accommodating parking without the cars compromising the amenity. The original intention for a square developed into a form reminiscent of a Roman Circus in response to the need to create additional homes on this tight backland site.The continuous three storey façade chose the natural materials of brick and slate for their durability. The Classical language emerged during the design development, with precast concrete elements adding further interest to the polychrome brickwork. The result has a little ‘Palladio’ in the late 20th Century. Noted for its energy saving approach achieved through thick walls filled with insulation the deeper window reveals also enrich the façade, which is further exploited by recessing the ground storey to shelter front doors.

Behind the design is the recognition that different groups with differing needs can live in the same community when the most successful buildings are designed in response to their needs. At the opening of the scheme HRH The Prince of Wales said, “You have shown how much can be achieved, even with a strict budget, when people work effectively together.”