Hortsley, Seaford

This award-winning development for specialist later-living developer Pegasus is designed from first principles to encourage social interaction between neighbours.

The plan consists of a simple curved arrangement of one- and two-bedroom homes, all of which are accessed from a shared wintergallery. This space – sheltered, but not heated – provides both circulation as well as an informal seating area which residents can adopt and adapt to suit their individual needs.

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.

Each home is dual aspect, overlooking the street to the north, and to the south a landscaped courtyard garden.

Typical apartment plans: 2 bedroom (left), and 1 bedroom (right)
"Unlike some other developments of this type, Hortsley does not have a formal care facility. But care, I would argue, is implicit in its architecture, thanks to a client that recognises that commercial success and residents’ wellbeing go hand in hand, and an architect that, in a quiet and understated way, understands how architecture sits at the interface between the individual, their community and the public as a whole. If we are to have any hope of solving the housing crisis, we need more buildings like Hortsley that embody this ethos."

Semi-private terraces within the wintergallery are defined by double-height voids at regular intervals. This arrangement increases natural light penetration and creates clear thresholds which provide a sense of ownership and encourages regular, meaningful use. Rather than two immediate neighbours, each resident has six: adjacent terraces are visible on the floors above and below.

Circulation spaces, often seen as an inconvenient cost liability, is transformed into shared semi-private reception rooms and assets for the community. Social spaces and gardens become more integrated into daily life, encouraging residents to inhabit the spaces outside their private domains. 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. This incidental social interaction happens informally, every day.


Stafford Road elevation
South-facing gardens provide a sanctuary from the busy high street

Client: Pegasus
Completion: 2018
Location: Seaford, East Sussex

  • Housing Design Awards 2019 (Built) – HAPPI Winner
  • Sussex Heritage Trust Awards 2019 (Large-Scale Residential) – Winner
  • Architects’ Journal Architecture Awards 2018 – Shortlisted
  • Housing Design Awards 2017 (Project) – Shortlisted

Photographs: Jakob Spriestersbach, Jim Stephenson