A House for Artists

A new model of affordable housing and civic engagement

We are pleased to announce an ambitious new affordable housing project in Barking Town Centre, opening in 2018 and designed by London-based architecture studio Apparata.

A House for Artists will combine a new community arts centre with studio work spaces and 12 affordable apartments for artists, helping to strengthen local arts facilities as well as arts engagement and education within the local community. As part of the affordable rent tenure the resident artists will contribute to forming the arts centre programme, providing year-round arts, education and community activities with and for local people.

At a time when councils are struggling to build and manage existing community spaces – and artists are finding it increasingly hard to remain in London – we see this project as a pilot or model which could be replicated in other London boroughs.

The project brings together two difficult issues, aiming for one to help address the other. The opportunities for living cheaply or even affordably in London are becoming increasingly rare and the project is a direct response to how this housing crisis is affecting artists and the presence of art in London. At the same time, local councils are struggling to build and run community centres. In essence, the model offered by this project is a way of delivering a financially sustainable community programme in relation to affordable homes. The hope is that this project will become an example of infrastructure housing, with artists fulfilling new kinds of civic roles in neighbourhoods across the city.

Apparata (Astrid Smitham and Nicholas Lobo Brennan) have been commissioned to design the new build following an invited competition. Lobo Brennan is a recipient of the Swiss Art Award for Architecture, and was a founding member of the award winning architectural collective Gruppe. Smitham, who runs the contractor arm of Apparata, worked at various architectural firms including Caruso St John. Smitham and Lobo Brennan have worked on various public and arts projects in London over the last five years.

Ideas of community and sharing run through the building itself, from combining the community hall with the resident artists’ work studios on the ground floor, to the apartments offering the possibility for co-housing on the upper floors. Each set of three apartments shares a communal outdoor space designed to be used for eating and working, and each apartment offers the possibility of connecting to it’s neighbour, optionally creating a shared living area. This shared living area could be used in a number of ways, from sharing child care responsibilities to annual festive events and can be easily closed.

The building will accommodate artists at all stages in their lives including recent graduates, families and older artists. The artists chosen to live in the building will be selected via an open call process, and interviewed by a panel of representatives from Create, Barking and Dagenham Council, the GLA and independent curators. Artists invited to the scheme will include established and emerging artists working within global art discourse as well as artists living in Barking and Dagenham who will bring specific local knowledge to the project.

The project forms a key element in the Barking Artist Enterprise Zone aiming to secure long-term affordable housing provision for artists, while introducing artistic activity in a way that is new and ambitious for the borough. By placing artists squarely within the community, the project aims to remove barriers to engagement, fostering inclusive and creative ways of using civic space.

A House for Artists is delivered in partnership with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham with support from the Mayor of London.