The Anchor  Ipswich

The International organisation L’Arche (French for “The Ark”) asked us to help them transform a dilapidated care home into a vibrant community in Ipswich where people with learning difficulties could be supported.


The brief was to create a safe community where 10 people with learning difficulties could live alongside a support team of 6.  Based around the principle of a courtyard, the accommodation includes 13no. self-contained apartments, office, a large multi activity space, communal dining and living area, a prayer room, safe external spaces for the residence, adequate parking, soft landscaping, and external seating areas to enhance the environment.

One of the apartments has been designed to accommodate 2 people sharing and meets wheelchair design guide standards with a fully accessible bathroom with hoist facilities.

The scheme also incorporates a Changing Places facility, one of only 1,530 across the UK.

Key Challenges and Successes

  • The previous care home held a poor reputation locally, and there was a stigma attached to the building that needed to be removed.  
  • The existing access to the site is positioned on the corner of a road junction, creating a hazard for pedestrians.
  • The building sits alongside a car wash facility, creating noise issues.
  • Being a charity relying on donations to fund development, money is limited so the design solution has had to be economical. In an attempt to help, the team at Gary Johns Architects has recently completed a sponsored half marathon raising in excess of £1,000.

Procurement route

Traditional tender.

Service provided

Concept design, planning application, discharge of planning conditions, Principle Designer Duties, Working Drawing package.

Design Process

Many of the existing spaces were not large enough to create self-contained apartments, so the design evolved through working around the structure of the existing building.

The large multi-function space and changing places facility is to be used by the wider public and has therefore been positioned so they can be accessed without entering the more private spaces used by the residence.

2no. new build self-contained apartments and a prayer room have been positioned to form a private courtyard to the rear of the site.

The materials and forms used for the proposed extension were chosen to create a clear distinction between the old and new parts of the building.


Ever felt your architect was not really listening to you? Then he was clearly not Gary Johns! Gary has worked with us for 2 years now on a project which is innovative and challenging - at least for us. He and his team have made sense of our vision, taken it out of the air and put it into viable plans, with a care and thoughtfulness that makes us realise that we are in good hands. He does everything you expect a good architect to do but with the added value of really getting alongside our project group and considering each concern attentively. He understands well the internal tensions that can exist in a group such as ours and the external pressures to meet the expectations of other agencies and funders. Along with excellent communications between ourselves and his team, he has eased the various processes along with good grace and patience - invaluable qualities when dealing with the vagaries of such projects.
Highly recommended!

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