Text description provided by the architects. These existing buildings have been radically transformed by completely rethinking the internal configuration, punching larger openings through the building envelope and introducing private courtyards. This draws natural light deep into the floor plates and enriches the new residential use.
Located in a north-west London courtyard tucked between a Victorian terrace and main railway lines, this landlocked site presented a great design challenge. Our task was to convert and remodel a run-down industrial compound from the 1950’s into contemporary residential accommodation. The buildings, once a mechanic’s garage and office, today comprise a generous open-plan three-bedroom house and two one-bedroom apartments.
Externally the buildings were re-faced, providing on the one hand the opportunity to create cavity walls and hence substantially upgrade the thermal performance; on the other a new façade material could be introduced, uniting what was previously a patchwork arrangement into a balanced composition. Responding to the courtyard setting a reflective façade material was used that glistens in the direct sunlight and give the development a jewel-like appearance. The shimmering surface changes with the light conditions and injects an element of surprise and nobility into the main courtyard.
The existing predominant material in the courtyard is brick, used on the rear facades of the Victorian terrace. This is in stark contrast to the ornate rendered front elevations, a treatment that Victorians esteemed. Our intention was to connect the development with its setting and pick up on this front : rear material relationship. Therefore we opted for brickwork as the courtyard facing material of the new residential units, however, because these elevations are the front facades of the new development we used the most elegant version of this traditional material – coated with a metallic bronze glazing. Along the rear elevation facing the railway lines we used a dark insulating render, inverting the Victorian strategy.
In order to distinguish the different parts of the development and to give each building its own identity, we introduced asymmetrical gables to the front facing elevations. Even the previously flat vaulted passageway into the courtyard picks up this theme and received an inverted gable.
Brick is also the predominant material within the interior and was used as a device to record the buildings’ history. As walls were moved, ground floor slabs lowered and ceilings pushed up to maximize the height on the ground floor, changes in the bond of the white washed brick walls mark the previous position of these elements. The result is a richly textured internal perimeter, imbued with the memory of place. This is contrasted with polished and rough concrete finishes, a coffered ceiling and Oak paneling.
The ground floor of the main residence accommodates the living, dining and kitchen areas. The open floor plan is structured by three elements: large openings bringing in the natural light, a sunken seating area set into the polished concrete floor and a wide staircase leading to the upper floors.