The winners of the ‘Don’t Move; Improve!’ competition were at the NLA this morning to talk through their designs.
Alma-nac partner Tristan Wigfall kicked off with his home extension winner, ‘Slim House’, which began with an email from an old school friend, who had bought an extraordinarily narrow-fronted building on St John’s Hill near Clapham Junction. Hemmed in by overshadowing neighbouring properties, the architect slotted in new elements with a lightwell in the centre, squeezing out as much space as possible including a shallow roof build-up. The sloping roof encloses the three-storey extension, while ‘cranked’ floor sections allow maximum daylight to penetrate deep into the plan. ‘It’s quite cathedral-like, given the narrow proportions’, said Wigfall. As a result of the project, there has been a good deal of interest from others seeking to maximise space, with varied motives. ‘We have been approached by quite a few developers’, he said. ‘Some reputable, and some less so.’
Next up was Malcolm Crayton, director of FORM design architecture, who took the audience through his Bermondsey Warehouse Loft Project – interior design category overall winner. Crayton said his exceptional photographer client ‘Eric’ had made the brave decision to strip everything back to the bones, with the architect coming up with a plan that separated the 11,000sqft space not into rooms but according to function – sleep, exercise, eat, relax, and work. Using the crisp white machine-made HI-MACS acrylic extensively throughout the project, Crayton created a block containing storage, bathroom and utility functions, along with a similarly detailed kitchen counter block, freeing up the rest of the space. ‘I sometimes think as a residential architect I am at war with corridors’, said Crayton. ‘I hate them.’ Other features included fitted shutters for privacy, a sliding wall for the sleeping area, cable management concealed in the wooden floor, and an extensive LED lighting system to change the mood. ‘Without good clients we get nowhere’, said Crayton. ‘Eric loves his flat and never fails to tell us so.’
The small office extension winner was a double act between HÛT director Andrew Whiting and architect Rachel Eccles. The project features four storeys of office space and two restaurant levels for a Greek Cypriot client (‘In fact we are the only members of the team who are not Greek Cypriots, so I’m learning Greek’, said Whiting), which the architects topped with a glazed extension. The task was to improve the net lettable space – around 1/3 of the total was being lost to staircases a dead chimney breast and so on, whilst capitalizing on good views across King’s Cross, but using materials and a palette that would stand up to the local noise and pollution. Whiting said Islington Council was good to work with, especially over borderline building regulations compliance issues such as that over stairs. ‘They were delighted it was a derelict building that someone was taking on and bringing back to life’, he said. Eccles added that the glass extension was intended to enhance the building as much as possible whilst still being low maintenance. It was praise indeed, she added, that an architect – Guy Holloway Architects – had taken the top floor of the new-look building.
Last but not least, Patrick Michell, partner at Platform 5 Architects, talked through his £70,000 ‘Shoffice’ scheme – the sculptural answer to a client that wanted work- and playspace plus storage in a small garden in St John’s Wood. Michell said early discussions on the small office extension joint winner had established that there would be an emphasis on form, with influences from Barbara Hepworth and James Turrell installations, and a required curvilinear form. ‘It was a project we couldn’t turn away’, said Michell. ‘It was just too interesting.’ The architects chose to sidestep planning by going down the permitted development route, creating a timber elliptical shell like a wood shaving that was assembled offsite in a workshop in Brighton, and featuring a desk cantilevered off a wall and steam-bent facia. ‘The client is now writing a book and the kids are enjoying playing out there as well,’ said Michell. ‘They haven’t climbed onto the top so far, but it’s only a matter of time.’
David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly