Architect Wells Mackereth, like Seth Stein Architects, has risen heroically to the challenge of scale at the Piper Building with this two- bedroom 145m2 apartment for a young businessman. To take advantage of the full volume in the living room, the mezzanine - which ran the full length of the space when bought - has been removed. 'Part of the intention,' explains James Wells, 'was to make the flat feel as airy as possible because the client works from home.' Two cross storage walls divide the remaining space but stop short of the exterior wall to preserve a tall, narrow 'side aisle' connection between the rooms; the opening can be closed off by a wired-glass pivoting panel.
The fitted kitchen wall, the first thing you see when you enter the living space from the entrance hall, establishes the generosity of Wells Mackereth's solution. Built in mdf and stainless steel, it extends above the height of any standard fitted kitchen. On the wall opposite, the upper row of cupboards starts well above average head height and extends to the ceiling, out of the reach of any normal-sized tenant. The problem is solved by a continuous stainless steel bar running at a fixed height around the perimeter of the room to which a lightweight ladder can be attached, giving access not only to cupboards but also to mezzanine storage.
The apartment is full of ingenious details: the sliding shutter that pulls down to conceal the desk, a push-and-tilt panel to hide the television, lightweight sliding Dufaylite shutter panels fitted to bedroom windows, sliding glass screens to the shower and wc, pivoting full-height doors between rooms and corridor. Ironmongery has been virtually eliminated: everything slides, glides, pushes or pulls, and cupboards (of which there are many in this fit-out) read as clean wall surfaces.
The mezzanine over the main bedroom serves as the main bathroom - with no hint of its presence given from the floor below. The bath is regally set into a stepped dais; the surrounding floor finish is Cumbrian slate. A bench beside the balustrading, overlooking the bedroom, is in American black walnut and twin stainless steel basins are mounted side by side on the mirror-finish wall: this is a bathroom designed for sociability.
A few other details deserve mention. The birch-ply flooring conceals a slight unevenness in the existing floor and accommodates underfloor heating. Faux concrete finish was applied to the exposed ceiling beams which were too damaged to leave untreated and, similarly, mdf panels, painted dark grey, have had to be fitted between beams to hide staining. Finally, Wells Mackereth has had the satisfaction of designing a table for the client, a beautifully engineered two-part structure, with a black walnut-veneered top, and metal-section gate-leg supports on casters. This can be folded to half its size and rolled against the wall to be used as a side board.
Fun to design, fun to live in, and fun to photograph.
Left: the view that greets you when you enter the apartment; the balcony looks south over the Thames and westwards. Above: the 'living' end of the main double-height space. The sliding shutter is partly raised to reveal the desk; to the left is the fireplace. The door on the right leads to the entrance lobby, with storage space above.
Below left: a narrow 'side aisle' links all the spaces together along the exterior wall but can be closed off by a wired-glass full-height pivoting panel at the outer end of the living room storage wall.
Below right: the stairs leading from the main bedroom to the gallery bathroom on the mezzanine
track lighting Erco, underfloor heating Thermoboard, kitchen stainless steelwork GEC Anderson, ss basins Vola, paint Dulux, tiling Domus
These are busy weeks for Terry Farrell. Currently seeing out his chairmanship of the Urban Design Alliance, he has also been busy with conceptual designs for a potential new home for the Greater London Authority at Canary Wharf. Now a celebration of the practice's activities, in drawing sketches and computer images has been produced by Right Angle Publishing. His latest competition scheme? An opera house on Tiananmen Square in Beijing!