Reconciling cité and ville


Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects is playing a leading role in shaping the future of London’s residential townscape 

Housing. When you read that word what picture forms in your mind’s eye? A tower? A mansion block? A suburban semi? Or a kind of metropolitan cocktail with a restaurant on the ground floor over a subterranean cinema, with flats and balconies above? 

For the hundred-plus architects at Pollard Thomas Edwards in Islington, it’s probably all of these things and more, so absorbed is the team in the challenge of providing London with well-designed housing for all ages and incomes. 

But creating good housing – and neighbour-hoods people want to live in – is as much art as science. And it’s really quite hard to do. In his book Building and Dwelling, which explores ‘ethics and the city’, Richard Sennett describes the city as an artefact composed of two distinct elements; the cité, which represents the traditions, behaviours and beliefs of a place, and the ville – the buildings, streets, squares and parks, that are its physical substance. In other words, a city’s mind and body. 

Sennett argues that cité can refer to a kind of consciousness – how people want to live collectively. But if this is inhibited by the ville, the physical stage… well, we have a problem, a trust deficit even. This is the challenge then that designing good housing – and neighbourhoods – presents. And it is one PTE is considering with thoughtfulness and aplomb. 

You can sense how PTE approaches its craft – places where people enjoy being part of something bigger than their own home, where ‘cité’ and ‘ville’ are in concert – in the variety of projects the canal-side architect is showcasing during the Open House Weekend this year. From its New Ground third-age housing in Barnet, designed in partnership with the client, an all-women co-housing group, to its Deptford Lounge project, which draws together a public library, computer labs, study areas, a café, artists’ studios and keyworker housing, a rooftop ball court and a new town square – the evidence on show is of an architect at full tilt, shaping a new London predicated on sociality. 


New Ground CoHousing 5 copyright PTE

New Ground

Designed for – and with – a group of older women keen on the benefits of co-housing, New Ground provides 25 homes with shared facilities and communal gardens. “We’re unique, but we don’t want to be!” as founder member Shirley Meredeen puts it. 

Bow Garden Square St Pauls Foundation School 2 copyright PTE.jpg

St Paul’s Way 

A ground-breaking project encompassing a new school, a new mosque and over a hundred new homes. Its green credentials are notable with great energy efficiency, 183 cycle storage spaces and easy access to public transport. Mile End underground station is a 10 minute walk away. 

Tidemill Academy Deptford Lounge 1 copyright Robert Greshoff

 Tidemill, incl. Deptford Lounge & Market Yard

 Part of Lewisham’s regeneration masterplan for central Deptford, this project is unique, truly. The ‘co-locational’ design includes a district library, a new building for Tidemill Academy and Resolution Studios, a complex of new duplex homes over studios and exhibition space for local artists.