Overcrowding is a problem which increasingly affects families in dense urban areas. In Camden, almost 40% of all households with dependent children are living in overcrowded conditions. Overcrowding can impact on the well-being of family members and it can compromise the life chances of a new generation of children growing up in inner London. Yet, for many families, local support networks represent an essential safety net which precludes them moving further afield.
Camden Council and JKA were working together between 2004 and 2012 to implement an innovative approach to the crisis. We visited overcrowded families from Bloomsbury in the south to Cricklewood in the north of the borough to inform our strategy. We found that the greatest challenge for many families are the daytime spaces in their home. With living and dining areas often re-purposed to make room for additional bed spaces, there is little room for a communal meal, for homework or study or for having friends around the house.
We took a 3-pronged approach. JKA devised a training programme for Council staff to deploy immediate solutions for families including the provision of bunk- and sofa beds, using shelving as room dividers and innovative storage solutions for de-cluttering homes. We also developed concepts for sub-dividing rooms, installing additional toilets and showers and moving kitchens into living rooms. Finally, we designed and built a series of extensions to homes across Camden to provide additional living space. Adopting simple typologies and innovative construction methods, the project allowed us to take account of the individual circumstances of the families we worked with and the opportunities presented by each site.