A Cambridge architecture firm is working alongside the likes of Coca-Cola and IBM on a project to offer shelter to homeless people.
WindsorPatania Architects helped 19 homeless people into purpose-built accommodation in Barcelona earlier in 2020 and is now involved in enabling a further 17 to get a roof over their heads in the Spanish city.
The firm, based in Perne Road, believes the scheme – HomelessHostelsWork (HHW), from thecharity Homeless Entrepreneur – could provide a sustainable model to roll out across European cities.
It was launched in March 2020 as the Covid-19 began to take hold, and works by turning hostels and hotels forced to close during the pandemic into an asset to house homeless people.
WindsorPatania was part of the team that helped repurpose a hostel in Barcelona city centre into Covid-secure accommodation in the first stage of the programme.
Homeless Entrepreneur’s HELP programme, which focuses on economic empowerment to reduce poverty, then helped five of the beneficiaries to find work and begin to pay rent.
RIBA architect Giovanni Patania, a partner at WindsorPatania, said: “As architects, we’re usually asked to create spaces to increase social interaction. We had to think in a very different way for this project. The hostel was a great base from which to start, with lots of original features we wanted to preserve. It was important to us to still offer an aesthetically pleasing design, despite the main aim being function, not form.”
Fellow partner Ryan Windsor added: “This was a time to come together, to show solidarity and support frontline services and workers where we could.”
The firm, which also has offices in London and Liverpool, is lead architect for the programme as it enters its second stage.
Two floors at Central & Basic Solarium in Barcelona will be repurposed into a launchpad for the 17 ‘homeless entrepreneurs’ within six months.
WindsorPatania will redesign the dormitories and communal areas using new layouts and room dividers that ensure social distancing.
With travel bans in place, the team is working remotely with a Barcelona-based architect to take measurements and provide images and plans.
The homeless people will be provided with Covid-secure single workstations allowing them to seek employment.
But each measure has to be designed to be temporary, sustainable and removable so that the hostel can revert to its previous use when appropriate.
Corridors will be repurposed to house workstations and the reception area divided so that people entering the building can remove and store their shoes safely.
A sanitisation area for mask removal and hand-washing is planned, and WindsorPatania was asked by the charity to create a special room for training, therapy, and group support.
“Solidarity defined the first wave. Now, sustainability takes centre stage. Homeless people need more than just housing. They also need opportunities to be active, working citizens,” said Ryan.
Francisco, the owner of Central & Basic Solarium hostel, said, “The only way we, as a society, can survive this period is by helping each other. We have been blessed with a job, a family, and a circle of trust that can help us during hard times, but not everyone has these benefits. This is why we believe that by helping our fellow citizens in need, we’ll contribute to a better society.”
Manchester-based architectural visualisation specialist North Made Studio is working on planning and providing interior visuals of the converted spaces
Coca-Cola and IBM support the project as partners, providing drinks, coaching, well-being workshops, mentorship and a digital learning platform called SkillsBuild.
Barcelona-based Homeless Entrepreneur, with more than 250 volunteers around the world, manages the project.
WindsorPatania has a policy of undertaking at least one pro bono project a year.
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