Surrounded by green patches of suburban parkland and rows of identikit cream-painted houses, the bright collage of colour that fronts the YMCA’s new Y:Cube housing development is certainly unexpected in its context.
Built over the last six months on a patch of wasteland in Mitcham, London, the scheme is essentially a blueprint for a new way of quickly and cost-effectively supplying affordable and sustainable homes on brown field sites.
Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the 36-unit development is built for single people in desperate need of affordable housing after moving on from homelessness hostels and supported housing schemes. ‘Supply lags behind demand and housing becomes ever more unaffordable, particularly in London,’ stated Richard Rogers at today’s unveiling. ‘Y:Cube can become a nimble and innovative response to the housing crisis we face.’
Built off site in a factory in Derbyshire, each unit, Senior Partner and Lead Architect for Y:Cube Ivan Harbour tells us, ‘takes about a week to build and comes equipped with its own, floor, ceiling and external services,’ so they are instantly deployable. On site, they are stacked, one on top of the other before being ’stitched’ together along the floor and roof joints.
In Mitcham, the units are laid out in a U-shape around an internal garden courtyard, clad in slate grey and salmon pink cement board panels and punctuated by a patchwork of bright red, orange or yellow doors and balconies. Each unit has a double aspect with a front door that opens onto the garden or out onto the street, while balconies were made deliberately wide to accommodate tables and chairs and to help foster a sense of community. ‘The social spaces became critical,’ says Harbour, ‘so we’re not just providing a unit that functions but we’re providing a place that people are excited about. If they’re excited about it they’ll look after it.’
Inside, the 26 square-metre units are divided into two main spaces - a living/kitchen space and a bedroom with an en suite - but feel surprisingly roomy thanks to generous ceiling heights and plenty of daylight.
‘This innovative scheme aims to give young people the chance to rent their own home in the capital at an accessible price and is part of a range of much needed housing the Mayor has helped deliver,’ says Deputy Mayor for Housing and Land, Richard Blakeway. ‘I hope the site we are launching today is the first of many more to come across London.’