Brick By Brick recently partnered with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to launch our first design competition to reach the next generation of architectural talent. Croydon is one of the most diverse boroughs in London – 45% of its local population is black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).



Source: Shutterstock/ PPandV

We started the ‘Housing for a better world’ competition to rethink how professional services could be commissioned to represent the local community more accurately.

We asked practices to consider how housing could improve the urgent issues of health, sustainability and inequality, as prompted by the pandemic and climate crisis.

We had a challenging time judging more than 70 brilliant entries. We whittled it down to the final six BAME-led practices, to which we gave the tough task of presenting live as part of Architecture Foundation’s 100 Day Studio. The judges chose Jas Bhalla Architects’ team as the winners because their idea had a real clarity of concept that addressed the housing crisis as well as inequality in communities.

Competitions have their faults, but for us this was the first step towards ensuring meaningful change in how we procure projects, and we encourage other organisations to start taking meaningful action.

Jas Bhalla, principal at Jas Bhalla Architects, whose team came up with the winning concept, says: “

“As a practice, we stay away from entering too many competitions. However, having conducted quite a bit of research into suburban intensification, I immediately felt our interests aligned with the brief. Knowing that Brick By Brick was looking for an emerging practice – with a focus on those from a diverse background – made the competition particularly appealing.

“Our concept focused on a typical linear shopping parade in Croydon with the associated housing above disproportionately used by minority ethnic groups. These homes rarely meet space standards and are often accessed via undesirable service yards. Through targeted intensification, ‘Parade Living’ seeks to demonstrate that these locations can provide homes that are spatially generous, flexible and commercially viable.

“We are thrilled to have been selected as the winning entry. The process gave us the ability to add to our body of research and the online presentation gave us a platform to communicate our ideas to a wide audience, which can be a rarity as a new practice.”

Jas Bhalla Architects will be commissioned to work on an infill development site with capacity for around 10 homes either on an existing estate or garage site. The appointment will cover design work starting in the autumn and development up to planning stage in spring and summer 2021.

Chloë Phelps is head of design and commercial at Brick By Brick and Common Ground Architecture