Seeking housing design that better reflects the ethnic diversity of its community, Brick By Brick, a development company established by Croydon Council in London, has collaborated with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to launch a design competition. The initiative has attracted some of London’s brightest talents to submit thought-provoking ideas that address health, sustainability and the environment.

The shortlist, featuring all BAME-led practices, has just been announced, and the final winner of the competition will be commissioned to design one of Brick by Brick’s small site projects, due to start in the autumn. As well as a search for a bold new idea, the competition has been an important way for Brick By Brick to meet new architects with ethnically-diverse workforces, better reflective of the Croydon community it works with.

The six shortlisted practices each demonstrated a variety of approaches, starting points and concepts. Through their design, Architecture Doing Place, researched supply chains, economic opportunities, and social mobility that occurs during the exchange from taxpayers, councils, and their investments. Gbolade Design Studio’s community living design encourages strong, integrated and extraordinary neighbourhoods through design. Similarly prioritising outstanding quality and great design, Kristofer Adelaide Architecture was inspired by Berthold Lubetkin’s quote, ‘Nothing is too good for ordinary people’.

Nimtim design
Design submission by NimTim Architects

NimTim Architects, also selected for this year’s Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory, proposed a simple question to the people of Croydon – what kind of home and neighbourhood do you want to live in? While Jas Bhalla Architects chose to explore the typology of homes above linear retail parades, common in Croydon, showing how these often overlooked and undervalued places could in fact be generous and flexible places to live. McCloy + Muchemwa (supported by CZWG) used modular design and structural timber to think about sustainable building practices.

Chloe Phelps, Head of design and commercial at Brick By Brick / Common Ground Architecture, said: ‘This competition has introduced us to lots of talented architects that we were not previously aware of. It has been a great opportunity to stand back and reflect on who is designing our homes and to make sure that they represent the diversity of Croydon, and to encourage other organisations to do the same. We’re really excited to see what the final six teams will produce and how their ideas can be incorporated into our development programme to bring about a permanent change.’

Jas Bhalla design
Design submission by Jas Bhalla Architects

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust was an ideal collaborator to help Brick By Brick reach this diverse talent. The charity works to progress young people from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds in their architecture careers, with a larger aim to make society more inclusive.

Bongani Muchemwa, designer and co-founder of McCloy + Muchemwa explained the importance of the competition: ‘The competition is great for visibility, and the chance for someone new to get a shot at delivering a great building. Otherwise, we’re confident that Brick By Brick will uphold the ethos of the project through community engagement processes and right into the real world buildings!’ §