The Valley

The Valley is Winchester City Council’s largest housing development under its New Homes Delivery programme. The scheme provides 76 affordable units.

The masterplan

Project description:

The Valley is Winchester City Council’s largest housing development under its New Homes Delivery programme. The initial brief was for 30 social housing units on an existing steeply sloping open space, but our experience of the local context and thorough contextual analysis enabled us to accomodate 76 units (62 flats and 14 houses of mixed tenure).

The site is divided into two distinct parts at the top and bottom of the valley. Each has its own unique identity, responding to the immediate and wider urban context. At the bottom of the valley the apartment blocks form an informal courtyard through which runs a public right of way. At the top of the valley the blocks from a loose edge to the park. New houses sit at the top of the valley side abating the rear gardens of the existing estate and forming a frontage onto the park. A landscape neck and new footpath connections are created between the built form.

Our design created innovative housing typologies that comply with Nationally Prescribed Minimum Space Standards and Lifetime Homes standards. The council was committed to a high-quality project and we worked hard to achieve a bespoke appearance using industry standard details and products. We also enhanced the public realm by using buildings to define and enclose the public space.

By working with the contours, we avoided the site being dominated by crossing ramps to manage accessibility. Architecturally, the building blocks utilised our ‘shrink wrapped function’ approach, which maximises the functional allocation of space rather than forcing everything into a rigid rectangular footprint. The resulting aesthetic was of undulating pitched roofs which terrace up the sloping site, with the four to five storey blocks nestling unobtrusively against the hillside due to their informal geometry.

Planning approval was won first time. Through a series of public consultation events, and by working with both the landscape architect and client, we gained local support for a development that was 100% larger than the initial brief.

The bottom site under construction

The apartments from the top of the valley side

Looking up at the apartments from the valley bottom

The bottom site from above

The top site under construction

The informal edge at the top of the valley

A new informal edge to the park

The top site from above

Challenges we overcame:

The stage 2 cost plan showed that the project was over budget, so we worked quickly to analyse the relationship of each building to the site and classify retaining structures. Working with the project engineers, we designed out more expensive retaining structures through subtle adjustments in the layout and levels. This saved over £1M on the project. We continued to refine the design, reducing technical complexity and build cost throughout the technical design and construction stage using traditional masonry construction and repetitive details that reduced cost and complexity.

The final allocation of tenures was made very late requiring us to design flexible units that could easily be reallocated between tenures to suit funding requirements and enable project viability.

Aerial photography by Upperlook