"In 2001 the Peabody Trust held a design competition called 'Fresh Ideas for Low Cost Housing'. Competitors were asked to consider innovative ways of designing apartments on a low budget. The site is the old industrial zone of Silvertown in East London. NMLA won the competition. We developed the design with the Peabody Trust and with the builders, Sandwood Design and Build Ltd...
Low-cost housing often uses modular timber frame construction involving considerable prefabrication. This industrialized building process is usually wrapped in a conventional material like brick or tiles to give a traditional appearance. In fact, the wrapping could be anything. It is a primarily decorative layer. We investigated all kinds of wrapping designs and materials, looking for something really decorative. Working with the artist Martin Richman a beautiful envelope for the apartments was developed.
The French physicist Augustin Fresnel explained the colorful iridescence of dragonflies, peacocks and films of oil. It is caused by light reflecting off different layers within a material resulting in interference patterns. Martin found a strange "dichroic" film made by 3M - famous for everything from dentistry to post-it notes. We designed a layered construction in which the film selectively reflects and transmits light to generate shifting colorful patterns. This has become our wrapping.
The 12 apartments have two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a large living room. All the living spaces face south and they open up at the corners to give great views of The Millennium Dome and London City Airport. This project connects with the eerie beauty of these industrial edge zones, being re-inhabited with factory-built modular housing."
Keywords: United Kingdom, England, Devon, Silvertown, Silverton, NMLA, Newham, Peabody Housing Association, low cost housing, urban.