Reset Architecture

House 4 Life Salford

The Salford and Manchester city centre has undergone a tremendous transformation during the last three decades. The city centre has again become a residential area due to its strong youth culture and the discovery of loft living in the lively city. Now, these pioneers who inhabited the centre have reached an age where they want to find a home in the city where they can live family life and can go through different lifecycle stages, including retirement. This project illustrates a new model of family housing for residents with an urban lifestyle in the city centre that is capable of accommodating changing housing needs over a lifetime.

In the heart of the city, in the area where Manchester and Salford where once founded, Greengate finally benefits from its unique location. The area is transforming into an attractive urban residential quarter in the city centre. The green gate area will do justice to its name. In this plan urban liveliness and high density housing will be combined with parks filled with trees, grass and play areas. The green public spaces in the neighbourhood will enhance social interaction and will contribute to a pleasant living environment.

The competition site is divided into three lots with the right size for residential urban blocks and the development can be phased over time. The blocks themselves are not closed but open to the park so that a direct connection is established between public and semi-public green spaces. The half enclosed interior of the block is a quiet semi-public alternative to the busier streets and park, ideal to take a rest, play with your kids or to meet your neighbours. The courtyard contributes to a pleasant social community; it allows a combination of high density city living with qualities adapted to family living.

From a distance, the buildings are big sturdy sculptures that are very easily recognisable. Up close, the layering of the facade is visible and displays its human scale and various housing types. Block A and B can accommodate 70 spacious family apartments (three to four bedrooms). The apartments are loft +. Loft + is a new typology with an open floor plan that can be arranged flexibly + an extra floor with a fixed two bedrooms and a bathroom layout. This flexibility will enhance the durability of the building.

The apartment's living rooms are oriented towards the South, allowing the solar heat to warm up the rooms in winter. The cantilevered terraces stop the sun in the summer. The galleries are on the North side. On this side are bedrooms in apartments with small windows and well insulated walls to ensure minimal heat losses. Furthermore, a seasonal thermal store will heat and cool the building by concrete core temperature control. The floor slabs are charged with heating or cooling energy by means of hot or cold water circulating through the tube heat exchangers integrated in the building elements. This system is linked to a geothermal system.

In the court are pits in the ground from which water at a constant temperature is pumped into the building. The water is cool enough in summer and needs only a few degrees in winter to be warmed. This allows for tremendous energy savings and shows it is possible to have beautiful architecture, with large glass windows with a great view of the city and surrounding park, and simultaneously have a sustainable energy system.

November 2010, RIBA competition
Salford City Council, Salford URC and BRE
Theo Mathijssen