This 2-bed house is situated on a restricted site overlooked from all directions. By carefully manipulating the spatial arrangement of the accommodation and using a restrained palette of materials throughout the scheme, the resulting 'inward looking' house feels bright and open to its surroundings.
Our client lived in a 19th C. Grade 2 Listed villa in St. John's Wood, London, and wanted a home for her adult son to be built on the site of her existing garage. Critical to the brief was the desire to maintain the privacy of her garden, and minimise the impact of the new building on the existing house. The site was very constrained, both in term of area, and by the presence of a mature sycamore tree at the entrance, whose roots we needed to avoid. It was also extremely sensitive in planning terms, and overlooked by the main house and neighbouring buildings.
The existing perimeter brick garden walls were retained, and the entire site excavated with the exception of the root protection zone of the tree. A largely glazed ground floor contains the open plan kitchen, dining and living areas and a cloakroom. External storage for bins, bicycles and boiler was built into the external walls. Bedrooms were located in the basement looking out into a new light well, and the bathroom tucked into the narrowest bailable part of the site, where the tree root protection zone impinged most into the site.
The roof was designed as a green raised landscape, with skylights floating within it. A 'hit and miss' pattern of timber slats was used to separate the area for the new building from the rest of the garden, and to complement the solid brick walls that characterise the rest of the site and the neighbourhood. The same natural softwood was used internally; timber joists were left exposed, as were plywood ceilings; and a timber curtain-walling system served to unify and extend the space of the house into the site.
The sequencing of this build was a challenge: the entire footprint of the site (with the exception of the tree root protection zone) had to be excavated to create the lower ground accommodation. The extent of this would typically require full-height shoring and onerous temporary propping along the perimeter walls. By engineering a reinforced concrete ring beam into the design, and constructing it first, the amount of shoring needed was reduced by half. Casting the ground floor slab before the excavations to the basement started in earnest also allows us to use this as a working platform and assured minimal disruption to the tree roots at the entrance to the site.