Dartmouth Row, Blackheath
A quietly radical renovation of a large Victorian townhouse that covers everything from major spatial interventions to the production of loose furniture. With a rare integrity that reveals both the origins of the building and its transformation, the project unites the bold and the fine, the Victorian and the melded-modern.
Situated on the site of a former cattle market and constructed on the first ‘considered’ street to be completed in Blackheath, the residence and its immediate, urbane context sits on an elevated area with surrounding land falling away to the south and west to nearby Lewisham.
The habitable aspects of the project took two years and started unconventionally, with just an overall sense for the desired spatial reconfiguration. Everything else emerged as a response to the fabric of the house and through rigorous dialogue between client and architect, making a virtue of iteration and testing: an approach echoing product development in the tech sector, where the client works.
Spaces and their uses were reframed and openings inserted, encouraging daylight deeper into the house. The scope grew to include total decoration, production of loose furniture and elements outside. Of note is the architectural use of joinery for spatial organisation and furniture. The timberwork is entirely in Iroko, a warm and rich West African hardwood.
The architect's inventions and interventions are related rigorously to the original fabric - notably a pyramid stretcher brick prominent in the street-facing facade. The pyramid’s form is used in two ways. In its graphical manifestation, it is flattened and appears as a cross on furniture and other elements. In relief, as a further abstraction of the cross motif, it appears as a single, slanted line rendered in notched, vertical slats. These motifs recur rhythmically throughout the house and the joinery. They appear in smaller items like fireplace hearths and doorknob backplates. And they feature in the garden and new garage.
The final result also reflects the strength of the long-term relationship between the architect and master craftsman Adam Stevenson, who single-handedly built the joinery. Working without a main contractor, the pair provided considerable cost and process efficiency.
And together, they were able to achieve a rarely-seen level of craftsmanship.