Studio Seilern Architects have been granted planning permission for White Horse Street, a mixed-use development in the heart of Mayfair for Motcomb Estates. The approach has been to develop a low density scheme of five residential lofts, retail units and underground facilities with an emphasis upon creating a feeling of openness, maintaining privacy, and bringing nature and light into the heart of this challenging project.
By turning the typical urban building model ‘inside out’, the studio overcame the difficulties posed by a tight, inner site within a conservation area. The result is an innovative design that splits each residence across two buildings connected to each other by transparent private walkways with a vertical, sculptural garden at the core of the development.
The site offers only 17% of its perimeter to street frontage and is sandwiched between several listed buildings. This tight, inner site poses difficulties, such as how to bring in natural light and create extended views. The scheme responds directly to the site conditions, and creates an architecture with a distinct identity and surprising spaces, hidden away from the hustle of Shepherd Market outside.
Strewn with mechanical ducts, air handling units, a corrugated lift shaft and rear facades, the perimeter of the site is of the poorest quality so the scheme responds by focusing its attention to the centre of the site and toward a sculptural vertical garden that is pleasant and vibrant to look at. The massing of the buildings are shifted outward camouflaging blank walls, and unsightly features.
The structure is lifted off the ground plane, creating a large garden at lobby level. By splitting the upper levels into two distinct masses, the ground floor landscaping is extended upward to create a vertical garden and offers natural light and ventilation at the core of the site. The main loft building integrates itself within its context, while simultaneously clearly delineating itself from it.
The main building contains four lofts spread over two blocks. The northern block accommodates the vertical circulation, entrance foyers and the bedrooms. The southern block contains the living and dining spaces laid out in a loft-like open plan configuration. Each double-aspect living room looks onto the main residential courtyard and the large private light well at the core of the site. The views and look-overs have been carefully orchestrated to feel as open as possible whilst maintaining privacy.