Located in a previously semi-industrial area of East London which is now dense and fragmented in character, the site occupies a piece of derelict land on a street of light industrial buildings and large pre-war housing blocks. The project proposes a form that is ambiguous, in that it can be read both as an urban house and a simple industrial shed. The concept was generated by the complex requirements of the brief with four different programmes (two apartments, a studio for an artist and space for a therapy practice), by the extraordinary site footprint (4.5 x 20m) and planning constraints on massing and sightlines.
Like the industrial buildings adjacent to it, which have been re-appropriated over time, the external appearance of the building does not immediately announce its purpose. Entry from the street is via a porch, open on one side, with a mesh screen providing security and semi-privacy. Staircases are placed along one side in long flights and rooms are arranged around an open central courtyard. The rear of the building is a single storey with a roof terrace above it at fist floor level.
The timber-framed structure allows for the stacking of a variety of spatial volumes within the simple overall form of the building. The expression of the softwood frame becomes an important element within the architectural language, as vertical Douglas fir studs become visible within the structural openings of windows and internal rooms. External claddings and windows are detailed as added layers to the framed structure and become visible through the misalignment of structure and cladding and the use of semi-reflective glass that covers solid and void alike. The brick skin forming most of the building envelope is detailed as a coarse wrapping with loosely bagged mortar joints giving a soft and highly textured surface to the building. Through this handling, the building’s character is continuous with its context ‘as found’.