15 Clerkenwell Close

  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Timothy Soar
  • © Groupwork
  • © Groupwork
  • © Agnese Sanvito
  • © Agnese Sanvito
  • © Groupwork

Application Type

Civic Trust Awards

Level of Award

Award

Region

Greater London

Local Authority Area

Islington

Information about this scheme

Replacing a late Victorian box factory which more recently had become a solicitors’ offices and having undergone repeated remodelling, it was defined by English Heritage as “poor quality, contributing little if not distracting from the conservation area”. Sitting in the crook of the street, it is surprisingly contextual; a well-proportioned cube, with depth of relief and beautiful natural materials. The constraints of two party-walls, height, conservation area criteria and planning policies on residential mix very quickly set out best practice for plan layouts of habitable rooms. But how to enclose, support and therefore define its form and character? If flexibility were to be applied for long term use changes, “loose-fit” ideally floor plans would be column free and glazing flexible to accommodate all internal spaces without needing modification of the façade. If perimeter glazing were to be flexible, then a standard unit system in the form a stick curtain wall could be used, allowing uniformity with sufficient vertical window post/mullion framing onto which acoustic and fire partition walls could be located. Once these were set out in plan and projected as elevations and a further layer of superstructure added, it was then suggested using naked double-glazed units and allowing an engineering self-learning algorithm to dictate the load path of the façade, its twisting under wind loading and in turn generate the quantity of metal needed where under the criteria it could only exist between the naked double-glazed units. This, over several iterations, has resulted in a three dimensionally modulated grid with a series of diagonals for cross bracing, altogether visually alluding to medieval timber framed structures while performing as exoskeletal superstore, brise-soleil and curtain wall framing. This eventually transformed into limestone under conservation officer guidance, finished, as it comes extracted from the quarry. Natural cleavage (sedimentary layer), saw cut and drilled cleavage, set out in a controlled “random” pattern with some carved medieval and renaissance details reminiscent of the origins and simplicity of cut limestone construction and with its colonnade and garden of the C11th Augustinian nunnery. The building is simply laid out with the lift in the centre of the stairs like an old hotel, with perforated raw brass screens and open metal stair treads. This forms part of the fire strategy to ventilate the stair, with an open slot around a glass roof. The roof terrace contains scots pines and other fauna acting as a blue roof system, helping to provide water attenuation. Bridges and mezzanines, at ground level, lead to good clerestory lighting and quiet privacy for the studio below. The ground level provides access to a neighbouring building which is done with the same relish reserved for everything else along a mosaic colonnade and includes a quiet, well considered south facing public garden. Apartments are concrete slab and soffit, with walls made of timber with self-supporting partitions that can be simply re-fitted out to suit different requirements. Surprising passageways with bookshelves and kitchen counters, that move to reveal stone baths, provide constant delight and variety. The building positively contributes to the public realm with its rich, contextual materials and form which is bold although not overbearing. As a long-term resident, Amin Taha the developer and architect arranged several meetings with neighbours at the property and local public houses to gain thoughts and feedback from the full cross section of the neighbourhood, bringing about a fascinating set of debate. In addition to influencing the design process directly by suggesting innovation that reflected contemporary as well as older knowledge, further ideas led to the creation of the public garden, on previous unkempt council land, and adding soft and hard landscaping to the pavement line to relieve the street.

Credits

Architect

Groupwork

Structural Engineer

Webb Yates Engineers

Services Engineer

MLM Group

Quantity Surveyor

Cumming Europe

Acoustic Consultant

RBA Acoustics

Landscape Architect

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

Main Contractor

JB Structures

Specialist Sub-Contractor

The Stone Masonry Company

Specialist Sub-Contractor

Glasstec Systems

Specialist Sub-Contractor

Ecore Construction

Specialist Sub-Contractor

Eastnor Ltd

Primary Use Class

Class C3 - Dwelling Houses