Research & Innovation

PegasusLife Hortsley

A retirement living development for PegasusLife, located in the heart of Seaford. 38 apartments are provided on a challenging infill site on the High Street. The apartments are all dual aspect, arranged in a crescent and overlooking a landscaped courtyard garden. Every home is accessed via a wintergarden that provides shared and semi-private amenity space on every floor.

In larger extra-care developments the inclusion of dedicated social spaces for bringing residents together becomes financially viable. In this case, with a smaller number of apartments, it is necessary to find more subtle means to encourage neighbours to meet. At PegasusLife Hortsley a residents’ access and meeting gallery is created with a series of semi-external interconnected rooms, providing not only circulation to the apartments but also the primary space for social interaction

Loneliness and social isolation are recognised as huge issues facing older people. This project celebrates chance meetings with neighbours and moments of informal social interaction, to create a rich and vibrant retirement living development that suggests how innovative design can nurture a sense of community and belonging.

All apartments are dual-aspect and fire engineered to be open-plan and adaptable, with bathrooms and kitchens located centrally to retain long views and reflect natural light into rooms off compartment walls. Importantly this also allows living rooms and bedrooms to be interchangeable to suit residents’ needs and preference in terms of privacy and engagement with the social spaces within the wintergarden.

The gallery rooms are defined by voids between them and at three metres wide they can accommodate a broad range of activities. The staggered voids create double height spaces benefiting from increased natural light and create clear thresholds along the gallery to provide a sense of ownership and encourage regular meaningful use. They allow for stack ventilation, making it possible for the gallery to become a winter garden bringing the semi-external rooms into year round use. In addition the number of immediate neighbours is tripled as residents have a visual connection to the floors immediately above and below them.

Circulation spaces, often seen as an inconvenient cost liability, can be transformed into shared semi-private reception rooms and assets for the community. Social spaces and gardens become more integrated into daily life and entire developments become more animated. By encouraging chance meetings between neighbours, cohesive communities can be forged, encouraging inter-dependence and a sense of security, both highly valued by older people. Compared to activity-led social interaction, incidental social interaction is every day, it requires neither management nor motivation to happen.

The brief was to provide a modestly-sized retirement living development with an emphasis on interdependent living and well-being. This was achieved by combining social and circulation spaces and integrating these with the landscape setting. The challenging infill site cuts through an urban block and its immediate context is varied with civic buildings, a supermarket, high street and semi-detached houses.

By encouraging chance meetings between neighbours, cohesive communities can be forged, encouraging inter-dependence and a sense of security, both highly valued by older people.
Tripled neighbours

The block is completed with a crescent of dual aspect apartments that creates a generous courtyard at its heart.

The character of the building responds directly to its context and as a consequence has contrasting treatments. The outer shell forms a hard edge to define the urban block and takes its inspiration from the nearby Victorian civic buildings. The façade is broken into seven elevations of similar proportions and constructed from brick with expressed piers and an order of panels and windows that express the buildings symmetry and vertical emphasis.

In contrast, the courtyard side is inspired by the Regency terraces that respond to views the coast. The façade is lightweight and open, accommodating the social space and encouraging climbing plants within a tempered gallery space.

The entrance to the site is on the High Street those arriving at Hortsley pause briefly within a small public space enclosed by a knapped flint wall built in the traditional Sussex style. Glimpsed views through the heavy wall with a water feature just audible on the other side encourage curiosity from passers-by, and a sense of anticipation for visitors.

People entering through an oak door in the wall are rewarded by a lush and verdant secret garden, culminating in a spectacular spiral trellis, concealing within it the main stair that rises from the basement car park to every floor of the development. Climbing plants provides a direct link from each apartment to the south-facing gardens below.

Client: PegasuLife
Completion: 2018
Location: Seaford, Sussex
Awards: Housing Design Award 2017 – Shortlisted (Unbuilt Category)

Illustrations: RCKa and Forbes Massie