Set among the rolling hills of west Essex, our proposals for a retirement community cluster a series of villas around landscaped courtyards, encouraging social interaction and a sense of belonging.

The scheme at Chigwell comprises 105 apartments arranged within five villas which are carefully arranged within landscaped gardens. Working closely with the local planning authority, we developed our own Chigwell Design Guide which examined local character and established a series of design principles for the emerging scheme.

These characteristics included varying gables, a pleasing variety of materials and interesting roof forms, all of which were used to inform the design of the villa blocks.

Exploiting the significant gradient of the site, the villas are extremely efficient in plan, with split cores allowing access from each landing and enabling a range of one, two and three-bedroom homes to be accommodated within each building. Ground floor apartments open onto private terraces which also provide access to the generous shared gardens that connects the villas across the site.

Each villa has a cruciform plan which allows every home, regardless of size, to benefit from views in at least two directions; in many cases three. Taking advantage of the gently sloping site, an efficient split plan allows six dwellings to be accommodated per floor.

A central circulation core opens onto anterooms, in turn providing access to the individual homes through a series of thresholds. The transition from intimate space to expansive view is a deliberate one; on entering each apartment expansive views across the landscape are revealed.

Taking cues from the local vernacular architecture, each villa features directional roofs which provide clear distinction between the front and side, with tall gables and low eaves lines which rise and fall with the topography of the site.

Location: Chigwell, Essex