Tag Archives: london

Leaf Facade

Leaf Facade in London, England, by Squire and Partners, 2013

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

Architectural inspiration can be found just about anywhere nowadays—forms and structures can echo those of animals; buildings can become landforms through the manipulation of landscape; and a building's function can dictate its expression, among an almost infinite number of tactics. In many cases inspiration comes from something nearby, such as an area landmark or an important view. In the case of Squire and Partners' design of a private house in Mayfair, London, inspiration came in the form of a house one block away.

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

Drawing courtesy of Squire and Partners

The five story residence—consisting of four bedrooms, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a home cinema, two roof terraces and an area of green roof—sits in a conservation area, so the architects converted an old pub (The Red Lion) and retained an 18th-century brick wall, behind which the house rises. Cladding of the house was inspired by a building on Curzon Street that faces the preserved brick facade. Seen below, the building on Curzon street stands out because it is the only one on the street covered with ivy (Virginia Creeper, actually), as well as standing out for its location at the end of the short perpendicular street visually connecting the two otherwise unrelated buildings.

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

As the process documentation below indicates, the architects abstracted the leaves that make up the facade on Curzon Street and found ways to create a repeating element that has some depth, texture and shadow. The final result does not have the seasonal variation of the (literally) green facade one block away, but the scale and pattern have quite a nice effect, both from a distance and up close.

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

Per Squire and Partners: "The contemporary interpretation of leaves is crafted as a metallic shingle, which cover a three story elevation and rooftop pavilion. The PPC [polyester powder coating, I presume] coated folded aluminium leaves – 4,080 in total - subtly vary in tones of bronze to mimic organic growth patterns. The concept was designed over a three year period of research and development working closely with Swiss manufacturer Tuchschmid."

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

The color variation in the "leaves" is particularly noticeable up close, though not really from a distance. The yellow-to-brown range gives the facade an autumnal hue that also recalls bricks, but with a diagonal orientation rather than a horizontal one. The best aspect of the repeated detail is the folds, which enable the leaves to overlap but also to cast shadows and face in two directions. This feature ensures that the leaves will reflect the light in various ways throughout the day, tracking time in their own way, just as the facade with Virginia Creeper tracks time (the seasons) in its own way.

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners

Photograph courtesy of Squire and Partners


Slip House

Slip House in London, UK by Carl Turner Architects, 2012.

Occupying one of four plots forming a gap in a typical Brixton terrace, Slip House constitutes a new prototype for adaptable terraced housing. Three simple ‘slipped’ orthogonal box forms break up the bulk of the building and give it it’s striking sculptural quality.  The top floor is clad in milky, translucent glass planks, which continue past the roof deck to create a high level ‘sky garden’. Designed to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5, it features ‘energy piles’ utilizing a solar assisted ground source heat pump creating a thermal store beneath the building.

PV’s, a wildflower roof, rain water harvesting, reduced water consumption, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery within an airtight envelope with massive levels of insulation make this one of the most energy efficient houses built in the UK. A prototype brownfield development offering dense, flexible, urban living – the house is a vehicle for in-house research into sustainable design, seamlessly integrating the often conflicting aesthetic requirements of architecture and alternative low energy systems. We are working to develop this model for multiple developments and as affordable housing.

Living and working (‘Living over the shop’) is something that really interests us.  We see a prototype new ‘terraced’ house, squeezed into under-utilised city (Brownfield) sites. This flexible type of home can allow for the artisan or home-worker to sub-let or downsize.  This can enliven local communities and produce ‘homes’ which create opportunities rather than be dormitories or financial assets. Slip House is flexible and can be used as a single home, studio workspace and apartment, or two apartments.

The perimeter walls are load bearing, freeing up the internal areas of supporting columns or additional load bearing walls. The house’s open-plan layout ensures that walls / dividers are simple to erect and require minimal construction effort. This aspect of Slip House is not only financially sustainable but also environmentally so, as it helps to ensure the permanence of the overall structure, as minimal modifications can allow the house to adapt to changing lives and living situations indefinitely.

Archway Studios

Archway Studios in London, UK by Undercurrent Architects, 2012.

According to Undercurrent Architects, over 10,000 arches comprise the Victorian railway infrastructure that cuts up the city of London. Their design of the aptly named Archway Studios—a live-work space—positions the building under and adjacent to one of these arches, thereby exploiting the potential for the other 9,999. This particular one is part of a 19th-century railway viaduct in the Southwark district. The load-bearing brick vaults of the viaduct are accompanied by some rusting steel above; both appear to have influenced the architects in their design.

The three-story structure looks like it merely sits next to the viaduct, or caps one of the openings. But it actually extends underneath, sitting atop a rubber foundation and separated from the brick above via an independent liner and plenty of acoustical blanketing. This results in a fairly open and light living space on the ground floor, but that is only half the story. A section through the building would reveal an "L" shape—one leg level to the ground and one leg pointing up, extending past the railway's guardrail, as the building actually does.

The vertical leg contains a bedroom and bathroom one floor above, accessed via a spiral stair, and the work space above it still, up a straight-run stair. A skylight caps the volume, and combined with the shape of the floors below, daylight extends all the way to the ground floor. Natural light also enters the interior through the narrow windows that are located in the gaps between the surfaces of weathering steel that cover the vertical volume. These windows are very important, given the confines of the site and the need for privacy.

The rusty steel skin is easily the most striking aspect of the design. The way it appears to drape itself from the top of the building and peel back to admit daylight as it extends to the ground recalls Undercurrent's Leaf House, but turned on its side. In addition to their organic forms, each house takes its inspiration from their surroundings (industrial infrastructure, trees) and creates an interesting dialogue between inside and outside. The Leaf House's freedom of structure is not available with this London site, but the architects let the interior follow the archway, making the residents aware of their unique situation.

The Woven Nest

The Woven Nest in London, England by atmos studio, 2010.

The following text and images for this residence in Stoke Newington are courtesy atmos studio.

This home for an actress and musician carefully slots between buildings and sightlines, and wraps built-in furniture into every available surface. The massing was generated from the view-lines along the High Street below, tucked carefully out of sight to achieve planning permission for a new story with front outdoor space hidden within the row of listed buildings. The roof-form deploys a double-pitched butterfly roof, angling upwards from low flank walls to greet the arriving visitor with taller walls at the central stairwell. A crystalline valley skylight hangs above, flooding the void with light. Staggered floor sections carefully borrow space from below. The V-shape in section repeats in plan to ease a tidy outdoor terrace between new and old façades, the doors from hall and bedroom folding neatly together.

The project’s palette mirrors the client’s interest in Japanese economy, restraint and invention, and provides a sense of surprising spaciousness within tight confines. Spaces from adjacent rooms are borrowed and traded, with each room offering a panoply of different views and directions. Mirrors double and quadruple the extent of views and entice optical exploration, while maximum continuity between the surfaces of the built-in furniture provides a sense of further elongation, and interest. The house assembles around the central open stair, its timber strands growing upwards towards the light and unleashing delicate tendrils to frame each step. To the right, spaces sneak into the stair – as bathroom storage below or the underside of the desk above – while to the right the open treads fan and splay into a generous array of surfaces for the living room.

Both plan and Planning constraints generated a complex series of intertwining spaces, enlivened by light and interconnectivity.

Upstairs, the stair-tree verticals curl into architraves and continue into rooms either side of the eyelid to the sky above. Their lines flow to form a desk and shelving unit in the study, wrapping around to welcome the unfolding sheaves of floor plank that conceal a bed within the floor. The low table/cupboard nestled at the window flows out to form a long courtyard storage bench, which slips back inside as a bathroom counter, carved with a sunken bath. This same surface plunges through the bather’s view-slot into the bedroom, a faceted plane (the laundry-lid) folding up to form the final blackout for this bedroom/bathroom opening. It continues as storage into the plinth of the welcoming bed beyond, and onwards as bedside counter before folding back into the wall and the rhythms of the stair beyond.

The house is thus unified by a single curl of complex in-built furniture, bridging inside and out, closed and open, his and hers and anyone else’s in its careful compaction of storage and use and its careful alignment of the body within spaces and the eye towards sky. The rear window angles carefully back above its sloping brick parapet, offering great starry views from the pillow. Its fixed glazing folds at the stairwell to form an opening frame, a complex rhomboid perfectly slotted into the available space. The courtyard opposite protects privacy yet offers generous views of sky and city (from bath or bench, table or toilet), and tantalizing views into the intricacy of this urban jewel.

Women’s Library

Women's Library in London, England by Wright & Wright Architects, 2002.

Although not an award winner by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) proper, Wright & Wright Architects' Women's Library in London, England was chosen by the RIBA Journal as the "Building of the Year". While the last Stirling Prize was given to a pedestrian bridge, a structure expressing technology and engineering, this library on Old Castle Street is a quiet masonry container with internal subtleties rather than extroverted flair. The contrast between the two projects is indicative of much contemporary British architecture: light or heavy. This simplification is not to detract from either work, but to place the Women's Library in a tradition of building in British architecture that is solid and rewarding.

The library sits on the site of an old wash house from the Victorian era and houses the largest collection of books in its home country devoted to women's history. Its program consists of the usual book storage and reading rooms, along with a seminar room, exhibition space, offices, cafe and a garden (click here for plans). Both a renovation and new construction, the building steps in plan and section to build up in scale from the retained wash house facade to the mass of the new building. A copper-clad volume (at left) acts as a link between old and new, its materiality reacting to the dark brick of the old and the orange brick of the new. Inside the building continues its use of brick from the exterior, also using stone, wood, steel and glass to create a calm environment suitable to the building's purpose.

According to the architect, "we have a reputation for producing extremely high quality, sustainable buildings using traditional materials, often in innovative ways. Our buildings do not follow the quirks of fashion but instead consist of ordered, legible spaces that are beautifully and carefully detailed." A promotional statement indeed, but one that is accurately reflected in the Women's Library. For example the strict air quality measures required for the book archives are achieved through passive means, not mechanical, so the building actually has less that a quarter of energy costs versus a conventional system. Also the simple plan with the main stair (at left) illustrates the ordering of the spaces through the library, lovingly crafted with oak and stone finishes on the interior.

In addition to the care of the architecture, the Women's Library is notable for the mere fact of its existence, a place for "celebrating and recording women's lives". The library's archive houses materials ranging from suffrage to the abolition of prostitution, with the exhibition at the time of this article looking at the transition for girls into womanhood. All in all, the library is an extremely positive place that stresses pride and the enjoyment of life, much like the architects whose place an importance "that we and our clients have fun."

[Google Earth link]

9 Stock Orchard Street

9 Stock Orchard Street

9 Stock Orchard Street in London, England by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, 2001.

The following text and images are by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects for the husband and wife team's house and studio in London.

Faced with a blank sheet of paper and a couple of buildings to design, where do you start? Any novelist will tell you: write about what you know. What we know is that living and working from the same building means our two lives (work and home) are never easily distinguished, but rather are irrevocably intertwined. An architect's response to this might be: separate the two physically; clarify zones; keep activities distinct; apply order. The person who lives and works there knows this is impossible.

The building sits at the end of a row of Victorian terraced houses. One block, the office, bounds a railway line. A middle block, containing the living areas and conference rooms, is covered with a tilted roof, planted as a meadow. A tower of books rises through this, with a small reading room at the top. The roof is also pierced by rooflights and the top of the larder. Furthest away from the railway, a block contains the bedrooms.

Most offices display their corporate pretensions through shiny, hard surfaces; work is set apart from home, and therefore the architecture must reflect this. In our project, such separation is not possible or desirable. We have therefore wrapped the office in a domestic technology, strips of padded fabric, quilted like a duvet, upholstering the office like a chair, reuniting the domestic artefact with the place of work. It acts as a rainscreen over a timber frame. The material chosen has lasted years of storms on North Sea Oilrigs, so benign London is hardly a challenge. If, or when, it begins to decay, we can unwrap it and start again, maybe in a different colour.

The Dining Room in Stock Orchard Street occupies a space which positions the table ambiguously between the house and the office, recognising the claims of both to the use of its surface. At times the table is used as a conference room for the office, the place of official business. At other times it can be united with the house and plays the role of the formal dining room.

[Google Earth link]

Natwest Media Center

Natwest Media Center

Natwest Media Center in London, England by Future Systems, 1999.

Recipient of the 1999 Stirling Prize (the highest yearly honor awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects), the Natwest Media Center at Lord's Cricket Ground in London, by Future Systems, extend's the Marylebone Cricket Club's patronage of innovative architecture. Though, instead of a relatively public structure, like Michael Hopkin's well-known facing stands, the Media Center is limited to journalists. But where Hopkin's structures create space by providing shelter, the Media Center acts as an object to be seen by the public, either at the grounds or on television. The interior is secondary (though impressive): the strength of the design lies in its unabashed object fetish; a sensual, alien form landed on the grounds at Lord's.

Future Systems publicized this structure as the world's first all aluminum semi-monocoque building, utilizing the same technology as boat-, car-, and airplane-manufacturers (actually built in a boatyard). With this construction method the interior is free of columns and provides unobstructed views to the field 15m below. Here form and structure are one and the same, as the skin of the building follows the curves of the structural members. In plan the curve acts as an extension of the cricket grounds, while in section it accommodates the west-faced inclination of the glass (to eliminate glare on the field). Aside from these site-specific and practical concerns the form is arbitrary, and the architects took this knowledge and created a unique, yet simple, design.

Inside the Media Center is covered in a light blue color, the carpeting wrapping up the curved outer surfaces to become ceiling in certain areas, most evident at the rear. The plan is simple with service (elevator, stairs, and washrooms) and a small cafe to the east, and stepped rows of tables for journalists to the west, separated by a corridor overlooking the tables below. The womb-like interior is fascinating upon first entry, being enveloped by blue surfaces dotted with curved plastic furniture that mimics the structures form. A good balance is achieved between the inside and outside; the large glass wall attracting attention away from the interiors towards the field below.

For many years Future Systems attempted to get their Archigram-influenced "blob" designs built at a large scale. This commission is the first to move from interior designs and single-family houses to a larger, and more noticeable, scale (with the attention generated by television broadcasts it definitely is the first of many). For Future Systems the major accomplishment is the discovery of a structural system to suit their formal desires. As their name implies, hopefully other systems will be integrated to raise their architecture above a purely formal response to a more-integrated architecture that responds to the major issues we will all face this century.

Peckham Library

Peckham Library

Peckham Library in London, England by William Alsop & Jan Störmer, 2000.

Located in one of London's less desirable neighborhoods, Peckham, the new library by William Alsop & Jan Störmer is one of three elements (as well as the Peckham Arch and the Health and Fitness Centre) defining Peckham Square, created to regenerate the area. I do not know the designs for the arch or the health club but if they approach public space similarly to the library then the chances of success are definitely increased.

The library is basically an "L"-shaped building, though instead of the "L" standing upright, as would be expected, it is turned 90 degrees to create a covered, urban space. A row of thin, tubular columns fall at different angles to support the cantilever and further define this outdoor space. The change in column angles hints at the playfulness the architects continued inside, as well as providing a practical function of resisting horizontal forces; almost like avant-garde bracing.

The nighttime view at left shows the promise of the plaza when the library opens in early September. The structural-glass wall acts as a backdrop for open-air events while the building itself acts as a canopy, giving scale and providing shelter. The back of the library (top image) uses colored glass for its faces, while the other three faces of the "L" use pre-patinaed copper panels. A red "blob" peaks over the parapet towards the plaza, another hint at the interior's qualities.

Three wood-clad pods are the most distinctive features of the library, housing the children's library, and Afro-Caribbean literature center and a meeting space. These elements help to distinguish the library from other, more sterile designs that are prevalent. While this move may not have been justified at Britain's new National Library, it is a commendable gesture in an area trying to improve itself. The unique design, coupled with the outdoor space it creates, will help to bring in people from all over London, extending the library's reach and creating energetic (see positive) urban spaces.

[Google Earth link]