Hidden Homeless: ideas competition

This ideas competition, sponsored by New Horizons Youth Centre in London, challenged architects to propose innovative approaches to decent housing for homeless young people in London.  The proposals needed to be demonstrably durable, functional and serviceable because there is potential to build the best designs on suitable sites.


  • Competition winners: Morris + Co Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Competition winners: Morris + Co
  • Competition winners: Morris + Co

We received 47 submissions for this competition.  To see all the entries please see our journal piece.

14 teams were shortlisted:

  • Adam Khan Architects 
  • Amos Goldreich Architecture
  • Askew Cavanna Architects
  • Catja De Haas with Office Ten, Erika Suzuki, Anders Luhr and Rosie Bichard
  • Inside Out
  • Jonathan Tuckey Design
  • Levitt Bernstein
  • Mitchell Eley Gould
  • Morris + Co
  • Nicholas Hare Architects
  • Patalab Architecture
  • RCKA
  • Studio Yu
  • Weston Williamson + Partners

Prizes were awarded to the top three teams:
Winner: Morris + Co
Second place: RTKa
Third place: Catja De Haas with Office Ten, Erika Suzuki, Anders Luhr and Rosie Bichard

Adam Khan Architects received a special mention.

The press release of the announcement can be found in the downloads section of this webpage; the competition was widely covered in the architectural press.

  • Second place: RCKa Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Second place: RCKa
  • Second place: RCKa
  • Third place: Catja De Haas with Office Ten, Erika Suzuki, Anders Luhr and Rosie Bichard Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Third place: Catja De Haas with Office Ten, Erika Suzuki, Anders Luhr and Rosie Bichard
  • Third place: Catja De Haas with Office Ten, Erika Suzuki, Anders Luhr and Rosie Bichard


This was an open, ideas competition, with cash prizes for the top three teams.  The brief can be downloaded from the sidebar on this webpage.

While it is hoped that the winning ideas can be turned into reality, this competition was not for a live project.  For the purpose of the competition only, TfL allowed us to use the disused York Road Underground station as a test site, to enable competitors to demonstrate how their ideas might work on a constricted urban site in London.

Competitors were asked to submit: 

  • Two landscape boards describing their proposals 
  • A project statement 
  • A financial plan for income generation

Anonymity was not a requirement.

The entries were judged by a Jury Panel, chaired by the broadcaster Jon Snow who is Patron of New Horizon Youth Centre, and comprising:

  • Phil Terry, New Horizon Youth Centre
  • Deborah Halling, GLA
  • Marc Vlessing, Pocket Living
  • Robert Woodman, DP9
  • Chris Kane, Chris Kane Associates
  • John McAslan, John McAslan + Partners
  • Heather Macey, John McAslan + Partners
  • Poppy Noor, The Guardian

The winners were announced at a party hosted by John McAslan & Partners and sponsored by Gardiner and Theobald in the William Street Gallery.  A public exhibition of all entries runs in the gallery from 28 September to 31 October 2018

  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons
  • Image credit: Christina Solomons

Our involvement

This competition was managed by Colander working alongside Heather Macey of John McAslan & Partners.  We helped:

  • Design the right competitive process
  • Write the competition brief
  • Provide a web platform
  • Promote the competition
  • Ensure a clear and ethical process
  • Brief the jury panel
  • Brief the competitors
  • Manage the competition process, acting as point of contact
  • Advise on and implement the scoring / evaluation procedures
  • Create an audit trail
  • Debrief and follow-up

Background information on homelessness

Homelessness is rising and is visible on streets and towns throughout Britain. The high cost of housing and shortage of affordable housing in London means that homelessness is a particular problem in the city.  Street homelessness is visible but Shelter estimate that, as of April 2017, while 4,500 people were sleeping rough in Britain, more than 300,000 were in hostels, temporary shelters or unsuitable and overcrowded accommodation.

Young people are the hidden face of homelessness as they are often ‘sofa surfing’ or sleeping on buses, in transient housing or shelters.  Within this context, a number of organisations are doing important work supporting homeless young people but are finding it extremely difficult to source suitable short term accommodation where people are supported and safe while they receive help with long term solutions.

“Housing benefit cuts, insufficient supply of affordable housing, and cuts in council funding and mental health services have all left vulnerable people with nowhere to go. This new competition encourages designers and architects to tackle these urgent issues head-on.” 

— Jon Snow, Chair of the Jury Panel and Patron of New Horizon Youth Centre,

It is significant that the London Plan’s Adopted Policy (2016) 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.

In addition to this, the new Draft London Plan Policy (2018) H14 says that: “The delivery, retention and refurbishment of supported and specialised housing which meets an identified need should be supported. The form this takes will vary, and it should be designed to satisfy the requirements of the specific use or group it is intended for..(such) accommodation could include: move-on accommodation for people leaving hostels, refuges and other supported housing, to enable them to live independently;... accommodation for rough sleepers...”

The Draft emphasises that “Boroughs should undertake assessments of the short term and long term needs for supported and specialised accommodation within their borough”. And should “..use this information to plan to meet identified need, working with relevant authorities, such as children’s and adult services, the NHS and relevant charities.”

“Almost half of rough sleepers have mental health problems, 41% need help with alcohol dependency and 31% with drug abuse - creating a safe and secure environment is therefore critical. 220,000 people across London are forced to stay in insecure or unsafe places because they have nowhere else to go. This competition focuses specifically on short and medium-term accommodation where these vulnerable people can safely stay while seeking longer-term solutions.”

— James Murray, Deputy Mayor, Housing and Residential Development, GLA

So, this is the context for the Hidden Homeless initiative headed by London’s New Horizon Youth Centre (NHYC), a highly regarded day centre for young vulnerable homeless people based in the London Borough of Camden.

Society has a responsibility to address the growing homeless crisis. The current situation is unethical, unacceptable and unnecessary and must be addressed immediately. This competition focuses on the young homeless to address the problem at its roots. Those who fall on hard times and find themselves without a home deserve more than just temporary solutions or kind words. They deserve real help that gets them back on their feet.

“One of the biggest challenges in finding sites and planning support will be that policy makers are so highly focused on creating new, permanent affordable housing schemes. Consequently, more specialist types of affordable housing seem to attract less priority than they deserve. Policy support which does exist is to be found in the Mayor’s Housing objective to Ensure Equal Life Chances For All (3.1 of the London Plan). This encourages Boroughs to “identify significant clusters of specific groups (such as those who experience particular disadvantage and social exclusion) and consider whether appropriate provision should be made”.”

— Bob Woodman, DP9, Planning Consultants