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Donnybrook & Holmes Road, the work of Peter Barber

Morley von Sternberg

Donnybrook Quarter in Tower Hamlets © Morley von Sternberg

He has become the champion not just of social housing but homeless accommodation, which no other architect is addressing.

I first met Peter Barber in 2001, when Building Design commissioned me to photograph his project in Broadway Market, Hackney. His work was a breath of fresh air compared to other buildings I was photographing; it was small scale, white render, curves, an urban regeneration project.

We immediately became friends, and I have photographed every one of his projects over the last 20 years.

Donnybrook Quarter is a low rise, high density, street-based city quarter located on a prominent corner site just south of Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets. It was finished in 2006.

The scheme is laid out around two new tree lined streets which cross the site creating very strong spatial connections with adjacent neighbourhoods and a handy cut-through for their residents.

This was a progression of the Broadway Market project, an urban regeneration that put Peter on the map.

Donnybrook Quarter in Tower Hamlets © Morley von Sternberg

Peter is the leader of a new generation of architects pioneering dense housing types that preserve the idea of the street in continuity with the surrounding city.

The second scheme I have chosen is Holmes Road, Kentish Town. Holmes Road Studios is a beautiful homeless facility providing high quality residential accommodation together with training and counselling facilities, all laid out around a delightful new courtyard garden. Most of the accommodation is arranged in little studio houses forming terraces fronting the garden, in an almshouse typology. These cottages have a double height brick vault with an en-suite bathroom at the back of the plan, and a mezzanine bed space raised above the bathrooms. The rooms are lit via a partially glazed door, pretty looking circular windows and a roof light. The buildings are constructed in a rustic looking brick with a curved parapet which gives the project a relaxed domestic scale. All the rooms look out over the garden.

Holmes Road © Morley von Sternberg

Peter has moved on to brick, which is probably more fitting in urban London. His inspiration for Holmes Road is almshouses.

It’s the clever use of density that makes his work unique, together with his quirky touches with brick arches and a trompe l’oeil window at Holmes Road.

I enjoy photographing Peter’s work, the residential scale, with detail and modelling, is so different to my commercial clients.

He has become the champion not just of social housing but homeless accommodation, which no other architect is addressing.

Holmes Road © Morley von Sternberg

We were thinking, Le Corbusier, Adolf Loos, JJP Oud; the residents were thinking, ‘Spain! Holidays! Marbella!’ I’m completely happy with that.

Peter Barber, The Guardian 2006

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