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Housing as City Making : Islington Tower Collective

Part 1 Project 2014
Jolanda Devalle
University of Cambridge Cambridge UK
In 2013 a group of young families together with their friends and extended family members founded the “Big House Cohousing Group” with the aim to create a cohousing development that could provide family homes, outdoor communal and private amenity space, interior community spaces and a supportive neighbourhood network within central London. The aim of this project is to provide a home that may respond to the desire of these fifty people to live collectively through collaboration and sharing.

Central to the development of the cohousing brief is the investigation of the florentine palazzo typology, which provides an inspirational understanding of the role of housing in the urban fabric. Key observations are drawn from the study of the Gondi palace, built in 1490 by Giuliano da Sangallo and located next to Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio, right at the civic heart of Florence. The palace, with its tripartite structure, provides public space on the ground floor, a semi-private space on the piano nobile and private space on the top floors and open roof tops composed of terrazze, loggias and altanas, reserved to the family members. In this way embracing in one structure, i vicini (the neighbours), gli amici (the friends) and i parenti (the relatives).

Taking inspiration from The Gondi Palace’s vertical hierachy of progressively more private spaces and from the medieval origin of the palazzo typology. The ‘ideal’ volume of the cube is broken up into four residential towers, composed of a mix of dual-aspect three-bed duplexes and one-, two- and three-bed single storey units, separated by a varied sequence of ‘communal voids’: terrazze, loggias, passages, roof top gardens, where to enjoy gardening, a morning yoga session, an impromptu Fellini film festival or where to take out the tables to dine all together on a fine day. On the first floor a large communal kitchen and laundry room provides for the needs of the household and a theatrical t-shaped hall fitted between the towers, offers a generous well-lit space for the cohousing meetings, special events and birthday parties in front of the deligthful unimpeded view of the canal.

Jolanda Devalle


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