A House for Artists, a London Borough of Barking and Dagenham scheme delivered by Be First, APPARATA Architects, Create London, and supported by the Greater London Authority, has won the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Neave Brown Award – the annual award recognising the UK’s best new affordable housing development.

A House for Artists is a unique and innovative model for affordable and sustainable housing providing social benefit to Barking and Dagenham. The scheme has been designed to meet the specific needs of artists who, in return for reduced rent, deliver free creative programmes for the neighbourhood in the building’s ground floor community hall. The community hall serves a double purpose too, with resident artists also able to use the space as work studios.

The development has twelve apartments, with three on one floor sharing a communal outdoor space designed for eating and working together. One floor of apartments has double doors, creating optional and flexible shared living possibilities for activities such as parties, childcare, or co-working.

The scheme is a symbol of the innovative approach to development in Barking and Dagenham, which has become a blueprint for regeneration. It is also representative of the anticipated continued transformation in the local area by Docklands 2.0, which proposes the development of tens of thousands of new homes and aims to build upon East London’s reputation for stimulating growth.

The award is the latest in a line that A House for Artists has won, having also been awarded a East London Regional Award, a RIBA National Award, a RIBA London Client of the Year Award and a Housing Design Award.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said:

“A House for Artists just goes to show what Barking and Dagenham is all about – character, innovation, ambition, and community spirit. Having this recognised by the prestigious RIBA Neave Brown Award is incredible for all the team involved and testament to the efforts to put our borough on the map as a star in the regeneration industry.”

Geoff Raw, Managing Director of Be First, said:

“Seeing A House for Artists win the RIBA Neave Brown Award is fantastic and a sign of the amazing work done in Barking and Dagenham. We have huge ambitions for the borough, which has undergone a magnificent transformation since Be First was established in 2017, and we’re not stopping anytime soon. Congratulations to all the team involved – everyone should be incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved.”

Astrid Smitham, director of APPARATA architects, said:

“We are delighted and honoured that A House for Artists has won the RIBA Neave Brown Award, because it indicates that there is a readiness for new forms of housing that are able to address more of the many crises we face today. Architecture can impact mental health, physical health, the cost of living, social isolation, and community fragmentation. “Right now, as the UK appears to be on the verge of addressing its desperate housing crisis, we have the opportunity not just to meet people’s minimum needs, but to create more efficient, generous, convivial homes that can improve people’s lives and be resilient into the future. It can be done within cost and space norms and that makes us hopeful that adaptable, light-filled, neighbourly housing could be available to many more people.”

Marie Bak Mortensen, Director of Create London said:

“Huge congratulations to APPARATA for their Neave Brown Award 2023 win. ‘A House for Artists’ marks the third collaboration between APPARATA and Create London. We are so pleased – but not surprised – that the outstanding design ingenuity of APPARATA, their pragmatism and unwavering commitment to resolve urgent civic and cultural challenges are being recognised.

“Awarding the Neave Brown Award to an emerging practice shows immense hope for the future of British architecture. We know that great things lie ahead for APPARATA while both the artist residents and the community of Barking & Dagenham will benefit from this unique project for decades to come.”

Since being established in 2017, Be First has delivered over 1,200 affordable homes to date, developing the most housing completions by a Council-owned developer in 2022, with another 1,500 currently being constructed.