Old Oak Sawtooth


London has a rich history of housing -- not only with respect to architecture and affordability measures, but also how the city has presented housing as a public entity.

The lack of affordability within London’s existing housing stock is well known.  The current Mayor, in fact, campaigned on this very issue and put forth a variety of ambitious goals that would help alleviate this pressure.  A concept that was of particular interest to me was his calls for the redefining of affordability at large.  Much of the initial responses to this have not not presented any real solutions. This project attempts to take a different approach. Instead of value engineering existing housing typologies that reflect an increasingly antiquated view of domesticity, I wanted to leverage emerging lifestyles and create a housing strategy that takes advantage of more affordable ways of living.

The building is located at the western most point of the masterplan where it bridges the existing rail corridor.  This is indeed a fairly strange and unexpected location for this type of building, but there are two main reasons why this site was chosen; First, it presents a terrific opportunity for the building to engage in a unique way with the public.  It acts as a literal bridge from the central business district to Wormwood scrubs park (a connection that is integral in the overarching strategy for the masterplan).

Second, given that this is the most high profile site on the development, it gives an opportunity for the building to act as a symbol (or 'logo') for the new community of Old Oak.  Given that the future of London’s housing will determine the shape of the city, it is appropriate that this building becomes a symbol of reform.

What sets this building apart is its optimization of the sharing economy.  Other businesses and industries have capitalized on this and I wanted to develop an Architecture that does so as well.

The building is comprised of four housing types, three of which utilize share packs.  The nature of these packs differ from type to type and they help further define the unit and target demographic.  Striking the right balance between fostering common communities and advocating heterogeneity was critical.  So the building, while it has a single identity at one scale, has several at another.  The four 'sub buildings' each target a different stage of life, and, in effect, create a hypothetical cradle to grave building.  The Old Oak Sawtooth is not affordable housing in the traditional sense, but strives for more affordable alternatives (based on sharing) to established development patterns.



The first sub-building is the new starter home.  It targets young people and those trying to enter the housing market but simply can’t afford to. It's located in the center of the structure and utilizes the sharing of domestic programs.

By examining said programs with respect to what people are willing to share and what makes economic sense to share, an optimization can take place. For example, some of the more expensive programs to produce in a home are only occupied for 5 or 10 % of the time.  A base unit consisting of a bedroom, bathroom, and small work space was then established.  A family tree was grown from there where...

Eight of these share a kitchen and storage,

Two of these share a living and dining,

And two of these share outdoor space.

All happens in the share pack. The pack itself is four levels high and contains a full height outdoor space, two double height living and dining areas, four single height kitchens, and four storage and laundry rooms. Eight of the 30-35 m squared base units are associated with each pack of every floor (32 for each pack).  The advantages are fairly straight forward;  For the developer, while building the 288 units, needs only to fit out 64 full kitchens, 32 living dining, and 16 outdoor spaces.  For the resident, it offers the economy of 'micro' or tiny homes, but in a unit that has more traditional floor areas for each program.



The second sub-building offers a twist on a fairly common strategy for affordability; Working where you live and living where you work.  It targets young professionals, artists, or the startup crowd. It is located on the north end in the central business district of the masterplan.

The advantages of the live/work arrangement are clear; there is a single unit cost, no commute, etc.

However, housing types that aspire to be ‘live/work’ often just turn into homes with a little office in them.  The Old Oak Sawtooth uses a hybrid of the more traditional model by way of the emergence of shared workspaces.  The share pack is very simple and consists of

Two double height outdoor spaces,

And two double height shared workspaces.

There are five 50-100 m flats on each floor and ten per work space.  These could accommodate any variety of working household or perhaps and whole company that occupies an entire pack and it’s surrounding units.  With twenty units per pack, and four packs, there are eighty units in total. The advantages for the developer are; While they are giving up two units per pack, they are gaining revenue from a shared workspace for ten.  For the resident, a live work model like this provides all of the advantages of any other model but still maintains a little bit of separation between their private and professional lives.



The third sub-building is the park-side, luxury apartments. It strives to improve upon those housing types that appeal to more affluent residents. It is located in the park and utilizes maisonettes and an aggregation of services.  Rather than consolidating all amenity into one block, it is split into smaller portions and spread throughout the building. The share pack is three levels high and consists of a

Three level outdoor space,

And one single height and one double height amenity space.

The three level pack is surrounded by eight, two story interlocking maisonettes.  It has a skip stop elevator and shared circulation occurs only every three levels.  The advantage for the developer is that it makes for very low percentage of the building given over to unlettable hallways. The residents, on the other hand, are afforded double height spaces within the unit and smaller, more intimate amenity spaces.



The final sub-building is the family up-downs.  Families have long fled urban settings because the things they desire in a home come at a massive premium in the city.  The family up-downs are a fresh take on the common terrace house that’s all over London.  They have the efficiency of an apartment building, but rather than having a series of single orientation units, the second floor is swapped and creates a double exposure unit with cross ventilation.  There are 12 of these units on the south side of the structure.

Completed: December 2016

Course: Advanced Studio I at the Yale School of Architecture

Critics: James von Klemperer (KPF), Forth Bagley (KPF), Jonathan Emery (Lendlease), Caitlin Taylor (Yale)