AHMM put an all-female team led by a ”gender equality champion” on to the design of the so-called Women’s Building at its controversial redevelopment of the former Holloway women’s prison in north London.
The decision emerged as the practice submitted revised plans to Islington council for 980 homes, a community facility and a small park on the site.
The Peabody project came under attack from campaigners this summer who said the proposals did not sufficiently reflect the site’s heritage as home to the Europe’s largest women’s prison, and that a female-led practice should have been involved. Former inmates include Moors murderer Myra Hindley and Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the UK.
Sarah Akigbogun, vice-chair of Women in Architecture UK and founding director at Studio Aki, called it “another example of the marginalisation of women’s needs but also of women in the construction and the procurement processes”.
Sarah Wigglesworth also lamented the choice not to retain any of the historic fabric – for both environmental, historical and cultural reasons – while campaign group Reclaim Holloway criticised the decision to make the 4,000sq m Women’s Building a single-storey space on the ground-floor of a residential block.
Bu Simon Allford, one of the directors of AHMM and the new president of the RIBA, hit back at the arguments about AHMM being a male-led practice, telling Building Design last month: “A number of the women architects who work on the job find that criticism deeply irritating.
“The fact they happen to work for a practice that was founded 30 years ago by four men but that is now an employee-owned trust – the fact they get criticised for that and they are dismissed as servants to the practice is something a lot of them take umbrage with. And I share their concern.”
Now Peabody has said the Women’s Building community facility has been designed by a ”women-only design team of experienced architects led by AHMM’s gender equality champion Patricia Ribero”.
The housing association also said the facility has been incresaed in size to 1,498sq m in response to feedback to its consultations, with the developer having also reduced the height of the proposals to under 30 m for most of the buildings.
Peabody said the scheme, which has been funded to the tune of £42m by the Greater London Authority, will be 60% affordable housing, with 415 homes let for social rent.
The development, set in a series of blocks, will have more than 2,000 cycle spaces and will include parks, private gardens, and green roofs.
Peabody said it hoped to start work on the redevelopment by the end of 2022, creating 51 apprenticeships, with 30% of these for women.
The spokesperson said that long-term careers for women in the construction industry were an “important part of the legacy” of the scheme.
Following the consultation, the scheme will include 60 extra-care one-bed homes, with the majority of the social homes being two- and three-bed properties.