Hidden Homeless: an architectural competition for Young Homeless

Data from the UK government suggests that more than half of Britain’s homeless people are in London.  This design competition challenges designers and architects to propose innovative approaches to decent housing and shelter units for the homeless of London.


Most people’s idea of Hidden Homelessness is vague, precisely because it is hidden, however statistics show that young people in particular are the group most likely to be affected.  They sleep rough, or live temporarily in hostels, B&Bs, transient housing, or shelters.

Within this context, New Horizon Youth Centre, the sponsor of this architectural design competition, and its partners believe that much needs to be done to increase the amount of housing, or other forms of secure shelter, for the estimated 220,000 people across London who have been forced to stay in insecure or unsafe places because they have nowhere else to go.

It is significant that the London Plan’s Policy 3.1 is headed: ‘Ensuring equal life chances for all’. It states that: “Meeting the needs of particular groups and communities is key to tackling the huge issue of inequality across London”. It also states that development proposals should “protect and enhance” facilities that support the needs of particular groups and communities. 

Competition Sponsors

This competition has the support of the Mayor of London.

It is sponsored by New Horizon Youth Centre (NHYC) and has support and funding from a number of contributors notably: 

Capel C S Limited
Jon Snow (patron of NHYC)
John McAslan + Partners

Shelagh O’Connor, CEO of NHYC explains:
“New Horizon Youth Centre works with the most vulnerable young people who are homeless due to the crisis of accommodation in London. Our ability to provide immediate short stay and medium term accommodation for homeless young people has been severely depleted by cuts to resources and hostels. We must prevent the escalation of street homelessness for young people and this project is aimed to do just that. Working together with John McAslan + Partners, James Murray, Deputy Mayor and our key stakeholders over the past year, we have developed this competition to create a wholly new solution. It will not only address our immediate need to keep young people off the streets but will create a long term sustainable solution that can be a model for housing going forward.”

Competition Format and Timing

The competition will launch formally in the Spring of 2018.  To register an interest, please see the sidebar on this web page.

Competitors will be asked to submit two A1 panels plus explanatory texts to outline their design proposals and additional information that will be clarified when the competition brief is issued.

The brief is expected to propose homeless accommodation for a total of 40 people, with associated staff, and include private and shared space with open external areas. 

Proposed designs will not hide the homeless. They will integrate housing or shelter for the homeless with private sector housing and/or other uses.  Though this integration does not necessarily require the two types of housing to be within a single building, the combination of private/public, or private/charitable interests may be necessary to help fund the scheme.  It is also an important cultural requirement to ensure that those who have become homeless are recognised as an acceptable part of the community in which they live. 

For the purposes of this competition,a number of sites in London have been identified by some of London’s socially conscious developers.  The competition brief will ask designers and architects to develop innovative design solutions for one or other of these alternative sites. The competition will seek proposals that are demonstrably durable, functional and serviceable because there is every intention that the winning teams will have an opportunity to take their designs forward, on one or more of the sites, thereby transforming this initiative into what is hoped will be a number of significant real life projects. 

A prize fund of £10,000 has been earmarked to reward competition winners.

Jury Panel

The Jury Panel will comprise: 

Shelagh O’Connor (CEO of New Horizon Youth Centre) – Chair
Jon Snow (Broadcaster)
James Murray (Deputy Mayor of London)
Robert Woodman (Board Director DP9)
Chris Kane (Chris Kane Associates Management Consultant) • Helen Evans (Chief Executive, Network Homes)
Poppy Noor (freelance journalist)
Heather Macey (John McAslan + Partners)
John McAslan (John McAslan + Partners)

To express an interest in this competition, please see the information in the sidebar of this webpage