This is a clever development by an architect-client couple for a mix of uses including their home and office. It is on five floors over a basement and completely fills its corner site.
The mix includes four dwellings: the house over three floors, three small flats, the architects’ own studio on the first floor and an Art Gallery on the ground and basement. In section the scheme skilfully adjusts the floor heights, creating taller spaces for the gallery, the studio and the principle living space.
A dark brick base defines the back of pavement of the narrow streets and the building becomes progressively lighter towards the top, with an American quality to the living room and terraces on the top floors giving incredible views to the City of London. It even has its own High Line – though unlike in New York it is still a working Overground Line, whose trains squawk past at fourth floor level.
The top floor apartment is accessed via a dual entry lift, which connects directly into the living space as well as by a castle-like spiral stair. The studio and Gallery and the other two flats have separate stairs and entrances from the street, but are connected by the same lift.
In its response to its surroundings, its scale and its mix of uses, this development defines a vision for the future of Shoreditch. It provides an environment for family-living within a tough urban context and an apartment with qualities that you couldn’t easily find in a house. It has a fortress-like quality, towering over the hubbub that is Shoreditch on weekend evenings, providing a safe haven and respite for the couple and their offspring.
The building is an impressive achievement and has taken ten years to realise. Throughout the lengthy process from initial and protracted negotiations with adjoining owners and the raising the money to build the project, there was never a loss of ambition and the home created is a great achievement.
The architects have found a way of developing a tight, difficult site in a way that is both spatially and aesthetically rich. It is a relevant piece of city-making that is ordinary in its programme yet is executed with extraordinary care and judgement, taking it into the realms of the special. This is the kind of building London – and a depressed market – both need a lot more of.