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The inspiration behind the design of Moor's Nook with Coffey Architects

23 April 2021

Moors Nook 029 EDITED

Our Moor’s Nook community of 34 one and two bedroom later living apartments is nestled just a stone’s throw from Horsell Common and the village high street. Originally home to an industrial laundry, the building and homes that have been designed to sit comfortably in the existing surroundings with a subtle nod to the sites past use.

We recently caught up with Steve Jones, Project Director from award winning Coffey Architects to find out more about the building design.

Hi Steve, can you provide an overview of the design at Moor’s Nook?

It’s an interesting site as it was previously an industrial laundry. It sits on the edge of Horsell Moor, a characterful little village, with Horsell Common nearby where H.G Wells set War of the Worlds. The site looks out to the north over the local cricket field and between rows of terraced houses to the south. From the outset wanted to bring in some of the feel of the Common into the site, so this is represented by soft landscaped areas where you will find some of the species you might associate with the Common.

We arranged the massing of the building, so it steps up to the north and looks over the cricket field without overshadowing the neighbouring homes to the south, this gives amazing views from the upper-level homes in particular. You’ll also see it comprises a series of gabled roofs which hopefully give it a residential feel and appropriate scale to the neighbouring buildings. The chimney from the communal lounge is an abstract nod to the chimney that was part of the industrial laundry previously on the site.

The building itself is horseshoe shape in plan which creates a south facing courtyard which catches the sun. All the apartments are dual aspect and face in two directions so bedrooms catch morning sun and then as the sun makes it way to the courtyard homeowners can enjoy the evening sun. The movement of the sun played an important part in the design. As a practice we particularly interesting in light and its impact on wellbeing is particularly important to us. There’s also large roof lights to the apartments that occupy the top floor which have double height spaces with views of the sky.

The entrance is via a colonnade, incorporating bench seating which is adjacent to a new public space for homeowners and locals to come and use, chat, meet and socialise with their neighbours. This space has a direct link with the main private south facing courtyard.

The communal spaces were really important in the design with the first floor communal lounge also having a large terrace enabling homeowners to enjoy time together outside overlooking the private courtyard with the lounge itself with views over the cricket field. The communal space provides a heart to the building and help creates a strong sense of community with a real buzz. Whilst the gallery access enables all the front doors to face into the courtyard helping to further create that community feel across the building.

What considerations were made to complement the existing local architecture? 

There is a building across the North side of the cricket pitch, Moor House which we used as an architectural reference point. It’s a Tudor style building with a projecting porch and hanging tiles with an arts and crafts feel and we’ve tried to emulate some sense of the craftsmanship and material selection into the new building of Moor’s Nook.

We ensured the materials that were used were complimentary to the existing architecture and our design, with red and charcoal bricks incorporated. The roof is also made of natural zinc which helps the give the building a certain feeling of quality, as this material may more commonly have been found on churches and other public buildings.

What did your role as Project Director entail?

I joined Coffey Architects in February 2015, and on my first day I visited the Moor’s Nook site and met the development manager from Pegasus. My role is to oversee a number of projects, there’s around 20 of us in the office, with two project directors. I oversee and get involved throughout from sorting appointments to being involved with the design process and retaining an overarching involvement as a point of contact for the client. It’s been great to work with Pegasus right from the beginning on this project.

What is your favourite feature of the design?  

I like the details, such as the projecting brick that identifies the apartment mix, it’s logical but slightly abstract. As a practice we like to introduce it into our designs and I think this is a nice example.

Something that I also think works successfully is the change in roof edge detail to the street and courtyard sides. From the street side the roof doesn’t over sail the brickwork walls so gives the building a certain civic feel.. But on the inside the roof deliberately overhangs, covering all the internal walkways, this creates a more intimate scale and sense of domesticity to the apartment front doors.

What did you enjoy about working on this project? 

It was a fantastic project to work on with a very ambitious Client who I am pleased to say we are working with on other projects, such as Cobham Bowers.

About 18 months ago we were visiting the building for a magazine feature with a journalist, we were sitting in the communal lounge and a couple of homeowners came in, we started chatting with them and it was delightful to hear how well they were settling in and enjoying the community feel. We were due to go back last year as the project had been shortlisted for a RIBA award and we were meeting the judging panel to take on a tour, hopefully that’ll be rearranged for later this year.

It’s a fantastic place to live for older people, making a move at that stage in life to a completely different style of home is a daunting step. Moor’s Nook gives such a strong sense of community and the design enables homeowners to form strong connections with one and other. It was great to go back and see people have moved in, and that they are really enjoying and enthusing about their home makes my job so worthwhile.

As architects we are doing more as a profession to better understand how successful or otherwise the building works on all levels. Once upon a time when the building was finished we’d move on to the next project. But now there’s so much to learn going back and speaking to homeowners and users to seeing what’s worked well. I’m looking forward to going back with the RIBA judges to see the building being used and enjoyed in the way we designed. The proof was in the pudding, hearing homeowners’ positivity about their home was great!

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Moor’s Nook is a charming collection of 34 one- and two-bedroom apartments just a short walk from the historic town of Woking. To find out more about the homes available please email [email protected] or call 01483 431071.