Inexplicably, we missed covering this a year ago, back when Holmes Road Studios were first completed. So it makes sense now, in deepest lockdown, to give such an inspiring local news story a mention.
Just before Covid struck last year, nearly five dozen homeless people moved into a brand new row of cute brick cottages on Holmes Road that look like they might have been there for decades. If you’re a regular up and down that stretch, you’ll probably have seen the development slowly taking place.
It actually dates back over a decade to December 2010, when the council launched their 15-year Community Investment Programme to generate extra funding to invest in schools, homes and community facilities.
Fast forward nearly ten years and the buildings, designed by King’s Cross practice Peter Barber Architects, were finally finished at the end of 2019.
“Holmes Road Studios is a beautiful new homeless facility with onsite training and counselling, all laid out around a delightful new courtyard garden,” says Peter Barber. “Most of the accommodation is arranged in little studio houses forming terraces fronting the garden, in an alms house typology.”
There are 59 units of modern studio accommodation and training rooms, with residents supported to acquire the skills and confidence to move on to independent living. The cottages have a double height brick vault ceiling with ensuite bathroom, and a mezzanine bed space. All of the rooms look out over the communal green.
“We imagine residents working with a gardener to create and maintain an intensely planted and beautiful garden,” says Barber. “There might be an apple tree or two, potatoes, green veg, soft fruit, herbs, a greenhouse, a potting shed and a sunny spot to sit and rest. I hope it helps foster a sense of belonging, self worth and empowerment amongst residents, an opportunity to develop skills and encourage thinking about nutrition.”
In this tumultuous last year there has, as you’d expect, been huge pressure on the tiny houses. Now, at the start of 2021 they’re all occupied. “We have huge demand due to Covid,” says councillor Danny Beales, who steered the project. “In fact, we’ve had to take on additional hotel space – particularly the Britannia over in Belsize Park.”
One thing’s for sure: Holmes Road Studios is a landmark local project, so let’s hope it can make a real difference to people’s lives.
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Photography: Morley von Sternberg