Dawn House

Uplifting new accommodation for pioneering women's centre

Year Completed
RIBA Work Stage
  • Project Lead
  • Architect
  • Principal Designer
  • Contract Administrator
Awards & Mentions
  • MacEwen Award 2018 | Special Mention & Shortlisted
  • RIBA Journal | ‘Flexible Haven‘ February 2018
Anawim is a charity that exists to support women and their children, particularly women vulnerable to exploitation. It seeks to promote positive choices to help them achieve their goals and reach their full potential as part of the wider community.


Our first project for Anawim was a new-build training and counselling centre in 2007. Since then, the charity’s services continued to grow, so we undertook designs for a permanent building to replace their temporary Portakabins. This included immersive consultation with the service’s users, staff and volunteers, to fully understand their needs. A strong desire emerged for a non-institutional and homely building that would embody the values of Anawim’s work. The challenge was for the design to balance the need for personal safety and robustness, with that for warmth and calm.

Dawn House forms a new frontage to the site. Architecturally, it ‘repairs’ the broken street line, continuing the rhythm of stepped frontages, contrasting in colour and detail, and of consciously domestic scale. The client’s desire to keep their service friendly, personal and approachable is a design principle applied throughout the building.


The centre provides a first contact centre for women with multiple and complex needs, to meet their immediate basic needs and to provide emotional and practical support. Adjacent is a family centre including a creche and activity spaces for family counselling and access visits for women separated from their children. At first floor is a 6-bedroom shared house. This on-site accommodation means that Anawim can continue to engage with those women they have reached out to in prison, who otherwise can quickly be ‘lost’ to the service on release.

APEC Architects have worked for Anawim on various building projects for nearly ten years. They are fab! They offer much more than just an architectural service, as their collaborative approach, and the way they immerse themselves in the understanding of our needs goes far beyond a normal design service.

Joy Doal MBEChief Executive, Anawim

APEC have helped us to think strategically about how we can best use our site and built assets to most effectively deliver the services we offer, in the most appropriate way that complements the ethos of Anawim. They are always mindful of budget and where possible, have helped us source funding through supporting applications and undertaking pro bono design work to approach funders with.

Joy Doal MBEChief Executive, Anawim

WOW! What an absolutely fantastic, superbly designed and kitted out, beautiful new build. This was my very first impression of the new accommodation that Anawim now have to offer women upon release from custody, as a stepping stone back to full independence.

ResidentDawn House

APEC Architects' design of Dawn House support centre for women in difficulty in Birmingham is super-adaptable – and worthy of a special mention by MacEwen judges

Isabelle PriestRIBA Journal, 2018 MacEwen Award

The first time I seen this place I felt WOW! I was excited at the thought of being in here because it’s a nice space, it felt like a calm space. The first time I saw the bedroom I felt so excited – I love being here, the space, the cleanness, the support.

ResidentDawn House

They are really approachable and organised, they always have an eye to the next stage of work, anticipating what needs ordering and organising. They have worked extremely well alongside builders... We would highly recommend APEC for other third sector and community projects especially where a sensitive and collaborative approach is required.

Joy Doal MBEChief Executive, Anawim

There are no traces of walking into a prison cell, not even one of the nicer ones! Home: that is how it felt walking into that room, like I was walking into a home, and phew, how I wished it was mine.

ResidentDawn House