new development sitting adjacent to Peckham Rye park in south London may not at first glance appear to be dramatically different from other architect- designed schemes. Perhaps this belies its biggest claim to fame – that the architects, Tikari Works, not only designed the two- volume project, but also acted as developer, and contractor. Ty Tikari, who founded the young practice in 2014 with his wife Nicola, explains to ADF how a big driver for the design – with the architects having full control over the brief – was to avoid it looking like ‘standard housing.’ “We talked about the generic nature of a lot of housing at the moment, and tried to avoid that.” The practice was in an unusual position, with jurisdiction over many aspects of the project, but this also increased its exposure to risk dramatically – commercially as well as in terms of construction. However, what is now an innovative business model has been Tikari’s modus operandi since founding. It has resulted in a clutch of well- regarded schemes such as the Pocket House, a family home on a tiny site which won the RIBA London 2019 Award. This all-encompassing responsibility, reminiscent of the Master Builder arguably last spotted in Victorian times, also meant that the stakes were raised to create a design that would break some new ground in the fairly conservative residential sector, says Tikari. He tells ADF: “If we are going to take on the role of client, contractor and architect we should be trying to explore what’s possible with housing rather than produce what you would do with a separate client and contractor.” To not do this would be “a missed opportunity,” he adds. Setting the rules also meant synthesising all of the elements – commercial, legal, construction and marketing, “so they are all working in concert, rather than having separate voices all going off in different directions.” The fully integrated role turned out to be invaluable on this high-profile scheme, allowing the firm to make sensible ‘buildability’ decisions early on, because it was thinking ahead about the construction ramifications of design choices. In fact, underlying many of the aesthetic design decisions was a strong sense of pragmatism, befitting a developer’s eye. This is perhaps most evidenced in the internal spaces by the exposed CLT frame, which while offering a distinct look also represents a streamlined approach to construction, benefitting the project as a whole.


The results are a pair of largely timber buildings finished with a high degree of attention to quality and detail, but yet without the lofty price tag that might be expected. The well-crafted and spacious apartment buildings came in at around £2400 per square metre; “pretty respectable for this level of quality and the scheme’s bespoke nature,” says Tikari.

Site context Peckham, like so many formerly downbeat areas of London, is now firmly in the semi-gentrified category. EU regeneration funding since the 1990s led to investments such as Will Alsop’s Stirling Prize-winning Peckham Library, completed a mile to the north of the Rye Apartments’ site, in 2000. 2019 it was London’s fastest-growing borough in terms of prices – on average houses are now fetching £619,000. The Rye Apartments sit at a prominent corner at the top end of the park, on the busy junction where East Dulwich Road crosses Peckham Rye. Including a pair of split-level three bedroom apartments in each block, as well as a mix of more conventional one and two-beds (10 apartments in all), the scheme offers something different to London buyers. Tikari admits that developers “typically try to avoid three-bed flats,” as less saleable, preferring smaller units in greater volumes. However he says that as well as presenting a “more interesting architectural expression to work with,” the larger apartments would also plug a gap in the local market for a more affordable offer, but providing similar floor area as three- bed houses in Peckham.

The practice purchased the site with no planning permission, containing a set of five garages and a dilapidated 1950s two-storey building which had seen various uses from an office to a nursery, before being converted into three flats. Says Tikari: “It made sense to do a new sustainable scheme on the site, rather than trying to retain and extend a poor quality building.” The lack of having a separate developer client meant the architects were freed from responding to a typical residential brief. Instead it was a “negotiation between the financial considerations and architectural aspirations, and trying to see where those two things fit together.” By the same token, Tikari says that they “try not to do anything which is purely a decorative or superfluous gesture – to find an expression



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