In our latest article showcasing the university work of our talented student architects and designers we are focussing on a project about the design of cities by our Architectural Assistant Delshad Forouhar, who is working within our Studio team in our London office while completing her Masters at The London School of Architecture.

The aim of the project was to develop the skills of the architecture and design students in understanding and analysing urban spaces.

‘The Green Ginnels of Hackney’ is inspired by the often neglected, overgrown and underutilised state of garden spaces, ranging from 3-30m in length, behind Victorian terraces in the London Borough of Hackney. Del and her study group decided to consider how these spaces could be adapted and repurposed to bring more biodiversity and community engagement.

Terrace housing is often split into different flats, with many flats not having access to the garden space, or any shared amenity other than the stairwell. The project also noted that despite holding rich biodiversity, many gardens are slowly being hard landscaped over to allow low maintenance for the ease and convenience of some residents, despite implications of flood risk, habitat loss and climate negligence.

To address this the project explored how new areas of accessible public realm could be created by dividing the whole area of currently private gardens behind the terraces into a mix of private and semi-private ‘pocket spaces’.  The resulting safe spaces to walk, talk and play would deliver a wide range of recreational and communal benefits to residents and to the environment.

Each resident in a terrace would be able to sign up to contribute a portion of their garden to a newly created shared network of green spaces and corridors linking each terrace garden and running between neighbourhoods and public parks throughout Hackney. A variety of amenities would be provided depending on the requirements of each set of participants.

The evolution of the new garden space would encourage residents to transform their private space and, with increased visibility of their garden, residents would be encouraged to maintain this area to a higher standard.

Victorian terrace back facades are often irregular – consisting of extensions – and under maintained. This initiative would put a new focus on the back elevations, which would become the new ‘front elevation’ for residents while in the rear gardens, which would become a mix of communal space straddled by private gardens.



Victorian terrace housing is also known for its façade ornamentation within the streetscape – in particular the windows, doors and columns. The new back facades would incorporate these features, including converting windows into the style showcased at the front of the property.


This different approach to private and shared gardens will enrich communities and provide green spaces at scale to all residents of the Victorian terraces. By connecting these often piece-meal gardens together and creating green ginnels linking them, communities will flourish within Hackney, submerging themselves in the joy and wellbeing benefits of access to nature. These green pockets will connect Hackney residents and become the focal point of the neighbourhood, engaging communities and generating a net gain for the quality of the wider local built and natural environments.

We asked Del about her approach to the project, architecture in general and her work at Chetwoods:

What have you been working on at Chetwoods and what have you learnt?

I’ve been assisting on a variety of projects, from master planning and logistics to competitions. Most recently I have been exploring different types of model-making so that we can continue a more interactive experience with our clients.

As part of the Studio team it has been a breath of fresh air to be involved in challenging the standard way of delivering a project. I have learnt so much collaborating with my colleagues when it comes to planning out design strategies. Throughout all of Studio’s work there is a strong narrative, something that I would like to ensure is part of all the work I produce in the future.

I also appreciate Chetwoods’ philosophy of combining architecture and landscape and the importance of green spaces which are key themes in my own approach to design.

What inspired you to pick the subject for your coursework project? 

With the short time frame for this module ‘Design Cities’, before delving into our own individual design proposals, as groups we were given a case study of different types of development: public, private and other – the ‘other’ in this case was a ‘community land trust’. Over three weeks, we were to produce a total of 30 drawings for each development type, to explore the historical context, architectural language, landownership and so on.

I was fascinated by Community Land Trust developments and our case study in Copper Lane was London’s first co-housing scheme consisting of six homes. This case study informed my individual proposal of the Green Ginnels of Hackney which was a three-week overlayed study of how we can help increase public and outdoor spaces which the community can use, creating green corridors connecting to the main parks of Hackney. My main drive for this project came from the importance of engaging with the community, and providing something which will benefit the wellbeing of residents and the biodiversity of Hackney.

What were they key challenges you faced when developing the design?

A key challenge was understanding how the proposal could manifest in real life.  For any design move, it was important to understand what planning regulations are already in place, and how my proposal would have to understand, adopt and change them if necessary.

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