Friday 31 Aug 2012


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Duggan Morris Architects were commissioned to refurbish a Georgian semi-detached villa for a young and growing family in the North London suburb of Primrose Hill.

Flanked and fronted by Victorian terraces, the house marks a clear break in the rhythm and scale of the road. Its front and back conditions were also very distinct: it presented itself as a pitch-roofed two storey house in London stock brick to the front, whilst a starker back dropped down a level and raised the top of the wall, all painted in bright white, cutting through the roof and concealing it.

The house, previously divided into flats and stripped of its original character, was to reacquire its guise of a single family dwelling.

The relatively loose brief permitted open and continuous public spaces, that nevertheless could be confined when necessary. Due to a previously constructed side annex, an opportunity to rotate the vertical circulations by 90 degrees enabled to reduce circulation space to the minimum. To achieve this, in addition to bringing down light from a skylight above, the stair needed to precisely crank, widen and shift to find its way from the basement into the roof floor.

To accommodate the scheme and assure its spatial continuity, all the interior floors were removed and the house was stripped to an exterior masonry shell. A concrete and steel frame that allowed wide spans and thin floors space as well as generous openings to the rear garden was introduced. By partially relieving walls from structural function, a series of large joinery pieces are used to delimitate space. They take the form (and function) of room dividers, cupboards, windows and stair. In terms of materiality, these carefully detailed pieces in European Oak, merging with matching timber floors or polished concrete represent the "figure" against the "background" of the white-painted walls and muted detail of the rest of the house.

Duggan Morris Architects

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