The project emerged from a wide array of contextual, technical and regulatory constraints. Upon demolition we discovered that the site was contaminated due to its former light industrial use. We had to address this by laying a gas membrane throughout. Later on many considerations were made towards water management and drainage systems mainly because the site is within a flood risk area.
The client’s brief was to create a cutting-edge residential dwelling that would convert an underused yard and a poorly yielding commercial space into higher value residential usage. High emphasis was put on integrity and subservience to the original building for its historical value aspect as it has been held by the clients family for over 65 years. The aim was to turn the challenges of the project (hemmed-in site with the impossibility of having any conventional, outward facing windows, part of the dwelling sitting in a basement under the existing building) into a remarkable design that would astonish visitors and occupants.
But perhaps the most challenging endeavour was to insert a new construction under an existing building all the while keeping the commercial activity running. This was achieved through careful planning and extremely complex ground, temporary and steel works which took months to design. Once the final supporting structure was in place, particular care was given to the interface between the two parts of the building to ensure an impeccable acoustic separation. Another notable challenge was the series of logistical difficulties relating to the delivery and installation of numerous large glazed elements in extremely narrow and inaccessible parts of the site. These complicated lifts have required several road closures and crane hires.
The result of this spatial conundrum is a house that allows the passerby to see very little from the outside but reveals wonders of space and light from the first step inside. The only street-facing elevation is a large blank brickwall only interrupted by a small recess on each side. one of these recesses accommodates the front door which opens into a corridor, covered by a long and narrow roof light. This constitutes the ‘spine’ of the building and develops into a dramatic double height space. Every habitable room of the house is arranged around a central patio or a secondary lightwell which together bring light and air into the house to areas that would otherwise form a basement. This central courtyard is also a nod to the traditional mews houses where stables and carriage houses were often arranged around a courtyard. The extensive use of highly reflective glazing and mirrors allows to maximize volume and exposure, and turns a north-facing space which is partly subterranean with virtually no outward-looking window into a ‘cathedral of light’.
FACTS AND FIGURES
The Lightyard House