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Light room: photographer’s house, London, UK, Hugh Strange Architects

AR House awards 2019 shortlisted: Hugh Strange Architects present a fresh take on London’s ubiquitous Victorian terrace extension

The most prestigious room in a traditional Victorian terrace is the front room. Noted for the large bay windows that illuminate the space with natural light, it was reserved for receiving guests. The family would be sequestered away in the stuffy, ill-lit and poorly ventilated rooms to the rear of the house. As it was hidden from the public gaze, the back end was of little architectural merit. This has been reversed through subtle but profound interventions by Hugh Strange Architects in their fresh take on a typical architectural commission.

‘In aptly responding to the needs of the client and the environment, Strange has created a space that brings remarkable generosity to a typically tight urban plot’

Home to a photographer and her family, the three-storey house sits in the middle of a row of terraces in Peckham, south London. The architects have reconfigured the space by knocking through the upper ground floor – which sits at street level at the front of the house – in order to extend the lower ground floor at garden level, to create a lofty shared family space orientated towards the garden. Composed of an open-plan kitchen, dining and living space, the new extension is accessed by stairs down from the hallway at entry level.

Crop ar house shortlist hugh strange

Crop ar house shortlist hugh strange

Click to download

Shaping this new space is the exposed steel frame that not only bears the weight of the house above, but also frames the view of the garden. Acting as a grid, the furniture is set below its datum, allowing light to pass through the clerestory windows undisturbed. Unlike similar projects, the extension retains the alley adjacent to the house. Instead it has been repurposed into a courtyard, elevating and transforming the dreary alley into a desirable outdoor room. What’s more, this private enclave can be opened up to the house through folding French doors.

Internally the space is filled with muted tones; white painted steel, white plastered walls and sleek poured concrete flooring. Externally it is encased in white brick. To counteract the subdued tones, furniture – both inbuilt and free-standing – is made from larch tri-board. The subtly toned materials do not overpower the verdant surroundings.

The material palette extends from the house to the garden. The poured concrete floor of the house is continued by the concrete slabs in the garden and repeatedly, and through the materials, a dialogue occurs between the inside and outside. This amalgamation of the house and garden provides a new spatial framework for the inhabitants seldom considered in the 19th century for small houses.

Although a shared family space, the abundance of natural light suggests that the space could also be used as a photography portrait studio. The ingenuity of the design lies in that it hasn’t been overly designed for one prescribed use so it can be adapted to suit the needs of the inhabitants.

Hugh Strange is no stranger to working with existing buildings, particularly in the medium of timber and steel, as his previous projects Clapton House and The Strange House attest, although this is where the similarities end. Here, Strange has aptly responded to the needs of his client and the environment, creating a space that brings remarkable generosity to a typically tight urban plot.

All photographs courtesy of the architect

The AR July/August issue on AR House + Social housing is available to buy here

Shukri Sultan is an alumnus of the New Architecture Writers (N.A.W.), which is a free programme for emerging design writers, developing the journalistic skill, editorial connections and critical voice of its participants. N.A.W. focuses on black and minority ethnic emerging writers who are under-represented across design journalism and curation. N.A.W. was founded in 2017 by Phineas Harper and Tom Wilkinson with the Architecture Foundation and the Architectural Review and you can read more about it here





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