Rising above a bend in the railway tracks at Bethnal Green in east London stands something of an architectural anachronism. Front doors pop out from a stately two-storey plinth, clad in bottle-green glazed bricks like a Victorian pub. Inside, there are big flats, with tall ceilings and views in two directions, looking out over a shared courtyard garden.
The building has the generous scale and quality of an old factory conversion, the kind now reborn as million-pound studio flats, luxury lifestyle solutions to be snapped up in London’s crazed housing super-bubble. But it is nothing of the sort. It is a new affordable housing development, built by the Peabody Trust and designed by the young architectural practice Pitman Tozer.
“We were inspired by the design of some of Peabody’s first schemes, built back in the 1860s,” says Luke Tozer, standing in the newly named Mint Street, framed by the building on one side and railway arches on the other. “They were all about using a limited palette of substantial materials, with simple details and the occasional decorative flourish. And they’ve stood the test of time, 150 years later.”