Arts charity Create London is today inviting applications for UK-based artists wanting to take up residence in A House for Artists. Announced last year, the project is a new, affordable block of 12 apartments in Barking Town Centre, in partnership with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s Be First, with support from the Mayor of London.  It will house 12 artists and their families, provide studio workspaces, a shared courtyard, and be home to a community hall on the ground floor. The community hall will be programmed and staffed by the resident artists as part of a new kind of active tenancy designed specifically for the building.

A House for Artists aims to help strengthen local arts facilities, embedding long-term platforms for arts engagement and education within the local community. The scheme has been designed by young London-based architectural studio Apparata (Astrid Smitham and Nicholas Lobo Brennan) and is the first residential project curated by arts charity Create London.

Nestled within a diverse residential quarter, and minutes from tube and train links, the apartments are offered to practising artists at 65% of local market rent in perpetuity. The twelve flats will be rented on a long-term basis to provide secure housing for artists to put down roots. As part of the scheme’s affordable rent tenure agreement, resident artists will contribute to forming the arts space programme, providing a regular programme of arts and education activities with and for local people. It is expected that each resident artist will provide half a working day each week towards the public programme of activity.

Apparata’s housing model provides adaptability, robustness, and generous floor to ceiling heights in the tradition of open industrial units rather than the corridor based flat. By eliminating the corridor, residents can add and move walls to meet their needs and share apartments with their neighbours through double doors in party walls: a flexible and optional form of co-housing. The design of the building aims to support the forming of communities both within the building and with the local area, through shared entrance patios, co-housing, and the public room at the street front.

The project will act as a template for other affordable housing schemes tied to delivering public good in the future, replicable not just for artists but also for those working in other industries.

The ongoing housing crisis in London has sparked renewed interest in co-operative and cohousing models, as well as re-shaping tenancy models in the UK with a view to providing greater security for renters. This project introduces the concept of an ‘active’ tenancy which tethers affordability to the tenant’s role in providing hard-hit and vital social infrastructure and space for community, and can be extended to include joint maintenance agreements between tenants, shared childcare and social care. In this way A House for Artists could become an important example of a new kind of tenancy through which housing, and in this case arts practice, fulfil new kinds of civic roles.

We encourage applications from family units and alternative long-term co-living arrangements such as multiple artists. One floor is adaptable from three 2-bed apartments into a shared floor with the flexibility of 6 bedrooms. All apartments are designed to be accessible and adaptable, with one 1-bed unit for a wheelchair user. Three of the apartments will be prioritized for those who live/have lived, work/have worked or study/have studied in Barking & Dagenham.

Applications close on 1 October and interviews will take place in early November, with artists preparing the public programme for the community hall in the year following their selection, while the building is under construction, through a curated programme of public events, community planning and governance. Artists will take up residency in 2020, and the public programme will begin at the same time.

Create London and Be First will host a Q&A followed by a tour of Barking Town Centre and the A House for Artistssite on 20 September, which potential applicants are welcome to attend. Please register your interest in this event by the 31 August by emailing ahouseforartists@createlondon.org.