Filled with light and designed around community living, A House for Artists in Barking is a radical model for affordable housing in the UK

There is something about the very English muddle of regulations, codes and standards that has set the quality of housing in this country on a race to the bottom. There are rules to ensure that a bare minimum of space, light and ventilation is provided, but, such are the commercial forces driving the industry, these minimum levels also serve as the maximum. Meeting the barely habitable baseline standard becomes the default goal.

Bedrooms are sized to contain a bed, and not much else. Hallways are just wide enough to allow escape in the event of a fire, ceilings just high enough that you don’t bang your head. Windows are the smallest size possible to avoid too much heat escaping, while letting in a small chink of daylight. Lacking a minimum area, it is often the living room – where you might spend the most time – that bears the brunt of the squeeze, cut down to the meanest sofa-shaped sliver. The straitjacket of codes gives architects and their clients little other option, they say, particularly when working within the constrained budgets of local authority housing.

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