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We are not a mews

Little-used space behind the client's shops on Camberwell New Road in south London has become the site for three new houses for rent. Required not to overlook the residential units above the shops, MMM Architects has turned its back on these units, adopting the mews-like character of a single-aspect terrace, though here set on the pavement edge of the street behind Camberwell New Road.

With a combined gross external floor area of only 275m 2, admitting light and avoiding claustrophobia were prime concerns.A background as architect of London's Manhattan Loft Company informed MMM's response. Outside, two-storey bays surrounded by further glazing suggest spacious, light volumes and something a bit different within. Inside, bedroom, bathroom and workroom are downstairs while a single volume kitchen/dining/living space upstairs rises from 2.7m high at the rear to 3.6m at the front The entrance sequence begins with a porch area faced with bi-folding cedar doors and capped with a perspex plane, a necessary gesture to defensibility in this area. On entering a house, the small immediate space at the foot of the stair is lifted by light from the single-volume floor above. An added openness comes from the first floor balustrade immediately above the entrance being of glass.

Downstairs rooms are tightly planned, with neat touches such as the sliding door that closes the front bedroom and, when slid ground floor plan open, closes-in a range of floor-to-ceiling shelving. Overall, lines are uncluttered, with underfloor heating (radiators upstairs), doors are full height (2.45m ceilings), surfaces are currently white.

Designation as a 'workroom' for the space at the back of ground floors indicates that this is not always, in planning terms, a habitable room. (How it will be used in practice is of course something different. ) Each workroom of the terrace has some outside contact - at one end of the terrace from a slit of flank-wall glazing, at the terrace centre by toplighting from a slot behind the kitchen worksurface on the floor above, at the other end of the terrace by cutting back the upper floor and including ground-floor rooflights.

On upper floors a single line of worksurface defines the kitchen zone, with rooflights above. The timber floor then runs uninterrupted to the largely glazed front wall (a challenge to the blind/curtain industry here).

There could be no standard solution on this constrained site. MMM has, despite the small footprint, not cramped the lower floor planning and taken the bold step above, as far as possible, to reach out to the light.

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