LocationFinsbury Park, London N4, UK
Structural EngineersMilk Structures
Façade TilesTiles of Stow
From the architect. The Clock House is a terraced 60s dwelling located incongruously on a street of Victorian townhouses in north London. Architecture and design studio, Archmongers, have transformed this three-storey building into a contemporary home for a professional couple and their baby. The project focuses on creating a pleasurable but practical home, making use of a wide palette of materials that are beautiful, hardwearing and timeless.
This narrow house contained an integrated garage on the ground floor, living space on the first floor, and bedrooms on the top floor. It has been completely remodelled to open up and extend the ground floor into the main living space. Walls have been pierced on the upper floors to connect and brighten the central stair, the façades have been invigorated, and a verdant roof terrace makes use of the flat roof and provides a suntrap to supplement the northwest-facing garden. We have focused on innovative uses of traditional materials such as floor bricks, glass bricks, terrazzo, marble and tiles, and utilised modern techniques, such as CNC cutting.
The house derives its name from the clock tile on the façade of the building, which conveys constant motion to the street. We redesigned the façade within the existing framework by introducing a collage of block colours and materials. The exterior glazed tiles were commissioned in ‘brain’ colour from a Cotswolds pottery. Each tile was handmade in stoneware clay to give variation to the grid as it glimmers in sun or streetlight.The full-width windows were replaced with new glazing to reduce frames.
On the ground floor the integrated garage has been removed and a rear extension added to create an open-plan kitchen, dining and living room. A generous hallway lit through the glass block façade supplements this, along with a pink concrete cast stair that welcomes visitors to the building and doubles as clockroom seating and provides shoe storage below. A copper letterbox with an acid-etched door number is inserted in place of a pair of glass blocks.
The matt white Danish kitchen boasts solid birch drawer interiors and works as backdrop for the open plan living space. Its cupboards continue along the length of the wall providing the living room with considerable yet subtle storage. The kitchen has a connection to the stairway via an internal horizontal window allowing vertical glimpses to the upper floors.
The full-width rear extension includes a glass elevation with a window seat that opens into a garden of blue brick planters and paving. The original concrete beams have been exposed to link to a steel and douglas fir structure on the underside of the ceiling, while the elevation is clad in black stained timber supporting pre-cast concrete gutters that project over the parapets. The extension’s sedum roof provides a natural blanket of insulation.
There are four distinct stairs between ground floor and roof. The stairs begin on the ground floor with the pink concrete cast stair for the base three steps. A hung steel stair hovers above this to allow the ground floor to open up, exposing the underside and creating more head-height. Walls from the first floor bedrooms to the stair have been punctured with new internal windows to bring more light into the stairway. From first to second floor the original staircase has been retained.
The stair to the roof terrace was designed as a kit of interlocking parts stemming from the manufacturing process. It is made of over one hundred pieces of CNC cut birch ply, birch dowel, and steel rods to fit as an intricate puzzle. This stair is designed to give changing views and form and stimulate interest from every angle The accumulation of laminated plywood layers creates a stringer onto which the pieces interlock in horizontal and vertical axes. These simple bonds allow all other fixings to be concealed, and enabled an undemanding, one-day assembly.
There are two very different bathrooms in the house; upstairs, utilitarian white tiles cover every surface creating an endless grid reflected in a huge mirror. Downstairs, a small wet-room provides an intensely rich space clad with strongly banded black and white marble with rust and purple undertones.
Concentrated bursts of colour have been used throughout the house. The front elevation is marked with a bold green window, the rear with a small, red vertical window. Nylon door handles give an individual colour palette for each floor. The garden boasts a contrasting landscape of blue brick planters and paving, which has been created to encourage greenery to creep playfully between the bricks.
As a practice we see great potential in 1960s and 70s housing typologies and we love working with houses from this era. 60s homes often boast advantages over their Victorian neighbours. For instance, none of this building’s internal walls were structural, which offered significant creative potential when removing and piercing walls.
The building achieves equilibrium between aesthetics and function, embodying a practical, modern home environment that allows its inhabitants to thrive.