Housing for old age: Bruyn’s Court in Thurrock by Bell Phillips Architects

Housing for old age: Bruyn’s Court in Thurrock by Bell Phillips Architects

Designed by Bell Phillips Architects and built for Thurrock Council as part of a new public housing programme, Bruyn’s Court provides 25 flats designed specifically for residents aged over 55. The development, in South Ockendon, Essex, is intended both to foster social interaction among residents and to enable independent living – an aim supported by proximity to the town centre.

The site was previously a car park, and lies between the lively town centre and a community garden. Bell Phillips has endeavoured to mediate between these diverse landscapes in the building’s form and materials. To the east, a brick facade forms a new street edge and contains the building’s main entrance. By contrast, the faceted, timber-weatherboarded west facade viewed from the garden has a softer, more ‘organic’ character, suggests the architect, and is designed to give root protection to existing mature trees.

The development is split into three linked pavilions, reducing its perceived mass and introducing glazed circulation spaces that overlook both the town centre and garden. The building rises to four storeys above the entrance, while the roofline drops at either end to match the height of neighbours.

Living accommodation is designed to adapt to residents’ changing needs. Sliding screens allow apartments to be configured with either a guest bedroom or an extension to the living room. Each unit has a private balcony, and storage areas large enough for a wheelchair. The construction of walls and ceilings is sufficiently sturdy to allow for the installation of grab rails and ceiling hoists. On the ground floor, storage space for both cycles and mobility scooters is provided.

The design is intended to “foster a strong, coherent and friendly community”, says Bell Phillips, “and a range of communal spaces facilitate social interaction and provide visual connectivity with the surrounding area”. A communal garden room and terrace overlook the community garden, while on the upper floors the corridors are enlivened by informal sitting areas, increasing the opportunity for casual interaction between residents. Shelving and seating adjacent to the entrance of each flat allow residents to personalise their own space within this shared territory.