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FIRST LOOK

A crafted urban palazzo: AHMM completes mansion block for Solidspace in Southwark

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Eight mansion flats above commercial space develop the Solidspace ‘DNA’ of eat, live, work spaces, interlocked over a series of half-levels

This mixed-use, mid-rise building, designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, is built of in-situ concrete with a skin of hand-finished Wienerberger bricks, and prominent pre-cast cantilevered balconies.

It sits on a gap site south of the Thames, close to London Bridge, which was previously occupied by a warehouse building, the remaining south wall of which has been integrated into the new building and serves as a boundary to a park. The eight apartments of two and three bedrooms are arranged in two staggered blocks, three apartments in one and five in the other, with a stair and lift core running up the middle of each cluster.

Internally the flats develop the interlocking spatial model of eating, living and working – arranged at half-levels around a double-height volume – that Solidspace, led by Roger Zogolovitch, is known for, with the main spaces separated by stairs, not doors, and cellular bedrooms located off these. These interconnected volumes of the apartments inside are expressed externally by way of large L or T-shaped window openings set into deep reveals. Unusually, all floors of each apartment have secondary entrances to the communal stair for fire escape purposes, which gives potential for one bedroom on the lower floor to be let out as a discrete unit with its own bathroom and ‘front door’.

Westonstreet interiors rorygardiner 01 0058

Weston Street by AHMM

Source: Rory Gardiner

The building’s structural concrete shell was cast using traditional timber shutters of rough-sawn Douglas fir, strongly marking surfaces and giving a strong patina to much of the interior, contrasting with extensive use of solid oak windows and built-in joinery finished in either oak or walnut. 

The ground-floor office space consists of a single open-plan room with smaller meeting room and ancillary spaces tucked between the apartment cores. 

Architect’s view

Weston Street is a sectional tale of a spatial idea finding a site, a form and a façade. Cast in concrete and faced in clay, it is brutally simple. Eight apartments interlock around two stairs and an office below, to create a 21st-century mansion block. One where each apartment is a ‘house’ differentiated by its place within the spatial puzzle and the city.

It is also a tale of ‘slow architecture’. Of ideas arriving in searching conversations over many years of ‘breakfasting with Roger Zog’. But slow architecture pays with the production of a crafted urban palazzo, part Milanese but rooted in Bermondsey.

Simon Allford, director, AHMM

Westonstreet dwgs annotated page 03

Client’s view 

This is the development of a typical gap site, formerly occupied by a single-storey warehouse which historically provided storage for leather traders in Bermondsey. We sculpted apartments and an office out of this volume to take advantage of views over the park to the south, and to mature plane trees to the west. It demonstrates how an imaginative engagement with the fixed constraints of the gap site has become the driver of this project. It plays on memory of this particular location in the city, while offering a new vision of living to its residents. It is a tribute to a longlasting creative collaboration with Simon and our wider team.

Roger Zogolovitch, creative director, Solidspace

Westonstreet dwgs annotated page 15

Project data

Start on site July 2015
Completion Dec 2017
Gross internal floor area 1,870m²
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect AHMM
Client Solidspace
Structural engineer Form Structural Design 
MEP engineer Desco
Planning consultant AZ Urban Studio
Cost consultant Orbell Associates
Landscape architect Coe Design Landscape Architecture
Party wall surveyor Andrew Karoly
Acoustic consultant Sandy Brown Associates
Fire consultant Optimise Europe
Concrete frame Oliver Connell & Son
Building control MLM Building Control
Main contractor Bryen & Langley 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • No mention of the rationale behind shuttered concrete walls (and raw concrete ceilings) in living spaces, other than as a contrast to the timber window frames and built-in joinery - is this really what people like or is it just the manifestation of a brutalist nostalgia seemingly shared by many architects?

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  • Whether one likes it or not ( I personally love what I see here but haven’t seen it in the flesh ) one has to have complete admiration for a practice as big as AHMM that can still produce something as intellectually
    rich and so beautifully coordinated. There has been hands-on attention to detail from shuttering to veneer selection. As there should be, but not easy.

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