In August, we covered the news of a shortlist of housing projects all designed with London’s ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in mind. The design competition titled ‘Housing for a Better World’, launched by Brick By Brick, a development company established by Croydon Council in London, and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, has just announced a winner: Jas Bhalla Architects.

The studio’s concept, Parade Living, seeks to improve poor quality housing above linear retail parades, a type of housing that is disproportionately inhabited by minority ethnic groups and prevalent in Croydon. The architects’ research found that the homes rarely meet space standards and are usually accessed via undesirable service yards. New homes in the design exceed national space standards, bring additional storage and outdoor space for each home. The plan seeks to show how these homes can be generous, flexible and commercially viable.

Jas Bhalla portrait
Portrait of Jas Bhalla

Jas Bhalla, principal, Jas Bhalla Architects, gained experience at Kohn Pederson Fox, Adjaye Associates, and Allies and Morrison, before setting up his own practice in 2018. Bhalla studied at the Bartlett School of Planning in London, and continued his architectural education at Yale on a Fulbright Scholarship. To date his work has focussed on residential design, informed by expertise in town planning and urban design.

‘The competition has been a great opportunity to explore new concepts of collective living and discuss ideas in the context of issues such as viability and delivery, ensuring proposals focus on improving housing for under-represented groups,’ he said.

‘At the heart of our concept is the idea that if we are serious about tackling race-based inequality, it’s important to develop a nuanced understanding how and why different cultures live a certain way. If we can do this, there’s a huge opportunity to not only deliver much need housing numbers, but also bring material change to some of the most disadvantaged groups across the borough.’

By creating an intimate landscaped mews at the rear there’s scope to introduce townhouses at ground level if necessary

As the winner of the competition, Jas Bhalla Architects will be commissioned for a Brick By Brick scheme scheduled to start in autumn. The project will align with Brick By Brick’s aim to build high quality housing through a piecemeal approach to infill sites across the borough of Croydon.

Pragga Saha, judge and alumna, Stephen Lawrence Trust, said: ’The competition has been engaging at each stage and choosing a winner was so challenging as the shortlisted entries all had different strengths. Jas Bhalla Architects had a strong clarity of concept and their research was fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed being part of this process, and it is a testament to what can be achieved by community driven and diverse practices when given the chance!’ §