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The Shadow House, Camden, by Liddicoat & Goldhill

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Our tough little house on a 38m² site was a response to protracted negotiation with Camden’s planners

The Shadow House is our own home, but is also an experiment in making a generic small city house. We carried out the entire project ourselves, from finding the site, to planning, design, construction and the manufacture of fixtures and furniture.

We wanted to create intense interior spaces with maximum emotional impact. Our site was a 38m2 scrap of land on St Paul’s Crescent in the Camden Square conservation area, just north of King’s Cross.

Previous owners had made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to win permission for the site: our dealings with the Camden planners were protracted and delicate, so we developed the design with the council.


The biggest argument was over the building’s external appearance. The conservation lobby’s opinion was that the house should reflect its tough, industrial-era context. We took an extreme response to this brief, proposing a dutch-format engineering brick with a black glazed finish resembling the cut face of coal.

In order to give a sense of space, we modulated the section to create different ceiling heights. Changes in the floor below and different height roofs produce a range from 3m in the living room to 2.1m in the entrance area. This allowed us to give each space its own temperature, sound quality and sense of cosiness or airiness.

The substructure comprises reinforced concrete ground beams and piles, while the superstructure is in loadbearing masonry. Larch glulam beams are laid directly into the brickwork to support the roof and floor structures and the floor finish is polished concrete, poured in-situ.

David Liddicoat and Sophie Goldhill

About David Liddicoat and Sophie Goldhill

David Liddicoat and Sophie Goldhill met while studying at the Royal College of Art in London, and started working together in 2007. The practice is based in Babel Studios, a converted stable near King’s Cross. ‘We set out to learn by making: we are as committed to the construction of our work as we are to its conception,’ says Goldhill.


Start on site June 2009
Contract duration 18 months
Gross internal floor area 79m²
Form of contract or procurement Self-build
Construction cost £210,000
Cost per square metre £2,658m²
Client David Liddicoat & Sophie Goldhill
Architect David Liddicoat & Sophie Goldhill
Structural engineer Andy Martin, Peter Kelsey Associates
M&E consultant None
Quantity surveyor None
Project manager David Liddicoat & Sophie Goldhill
Main contractor David Liddicoat & Sophie Goldhill
CDM co-ordinator None
Approved building inspector Assent Building Control
Annual co2 emissions Not calculated

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