A House for Artists by APPARATA

A House for Artists by APPARATAis an ambitious, replicable model for affordable, sustainable housing tied to long-term civic engagement in Barking Town Centre in East London.

 The first of its kind in the UK, A House for Artists, provides flexible living space for twelve artists and their families, with studio workspaces, a ground-floor community space and a shared working yard that can be opened to the public.

APPARATA‘s starkly legible and playful design is civic to the core. Combining public-facing spaces and artist studios with an innovative housing model, its deliberate transparency invites the public in, while the spatial arrangement of the flats gives residents the option of shared spaces and collective arrangements without compromising their privacy.

A House for Artists is designed by APPARATA, an architecture, design and research practice based in East London, who are known for their arts and community work emphasising collective life, and the construction of buildings as a critical practice.

Playful design

A House for Artists has a dual role as both a public and domestic building, made up from a playful tectonic of stacked shapes with a clear structural legibility. A two-storey triangular form allows for variation from the standard apartment type, and better connects to the surrounding terraced housing and blocks. The upper floors provide twelve apartments, while the ground floor, set out at a larger rhythm, accommodates an ongoing public arts programme.


The design aims to support the forming of communities both inside the building and within the local area, through shared entrance patios and courtyard, and a street facing public space. Resident artists can use the ground floor as work studios for their own practices as well as for the public programme, while the apartments offer co-housing possibilities. Each set of three apartments shares a communal outdoor space scaled for eating and working together, as well as access. One floor of apartments has double doors in the party walls, creating optional and flexible shared living possibilities, such as for parties, childcare or co-working.

Adaptability and flexibility

APPARATA’s housing model provides adaptability, robustness, and generous floor to ceiling heights in the tradition of open industrial units rather than the corridor-based flat. While flats in the UK are typically restricted in their layout due to one-way escape routes via corridors that cannot be altered, A House For Artists provides a robust two-sided open-air escape strategy, eliminating the need for corridors and freeing up floor plans for modification. Residents are invited to add to and adapt their apartments during their tenancy, removing or adding walls to meet their needs. Raw material finishes provide structural clarity and mean residents can easily read what can be built where.


The building is constructed using a single skin of 50% GGBS concrete, whereby half the cement is substituted with a by-product of the steel industry, and other material build-ups are lean. The formwork was made using standard reusable parts and left unlined, reducing waste on site. Exposed ceilings provide thermal mass to reduce overheating, while covered walkways reduce solar gain at the hottest time of day. Dual aspect openings allow natural cross-ventilation, and hot water is provided through a communal Air Source Heat Pump. The building has over 20% less embodied carbon than the RIBA 2030 climate challenge target and GLA aspirational target.

A House For Artists is the first residential project by Create London, commissioned following an invited competition in 2016. Create has previously worked with APPARATA to transform the former Manor Park Library in the London Borough of Newham into a space for artists’ studios, public-access printing and publishing, and informal education activities for the local community.


A House for Artists has recruited its cohort. To express an interest in future vacancies in the building or to join the mailing list, please write to: ahouseforartists@createlondon.org


A House for Artists is commissioned by Create London and funded by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD) and the Mayor of London, and delivered by BeFirst (working on behalf of LBBD) The public programme, which will launch in 2022, is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Rayne Foundation.