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Aperture House by Paul Archer uses perforated brickwork as privacy screen

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This new home in Islington was designed for artist and designer Zoe Papadopoulou

Situated on a restricted plot, the key challenge was to maintain a sense of privacy while creating internal spaces filled with natural light. Both are achieved through a collection of skylights, large glazed doors and perforated brick openings.

The site was previously occupied by a domestic garage, enclosed by brick walls along almost three-quarters of the boundary dating from various eras. Most of the original boundary brickwork has been retained, and Aperture House, clad in brick, has been slotted in behind.

Aperture house kilian o'sullivan med 009

Aperture house kilian o’sullivan med 009

Source: Kilian O’Sullivan

The ground floor along with two courtyards, mostly hidden from the street, occupies the whole site, while the façade of the top floor, visible from the street, relates directly to its neighbours.

Funton Old Chelsea Yellow brick with a Flemish-like bond is used to directly pick up on the existing predominant brick style of the older neighbouring houses, with new and old brickwork separated by an aluminium shadow gap detail that also differentiates between the load-bearing and ‘hung’ brickwork. 

Architect’s view

Enclosed on three sides, Aperture House fits quietly within the Victorian streetscape. Unashamedly modern, the house sits low and is sensitive to its surroundings.

The predominant yellow London stock of the surrounding houses inspired our choice of brick. It also inspired as our decision to use a brick bond that resembles the Flemish bond used on the older houses, the formation of which allows for perforations within the layered façade to be formed. It creates a screen of privacy during the day, until night falls when, backlit, the elevation comes alive with interesting glowing patterns.

Access is through the front gated entrance, behind which is a small stepped courtyard. A second large courtyard sits on the opposite corner of the open plan living area. The courtyards are enclosed with full-height glazed doors and windows. Combined with large rooflights to the kitchen and stairwell, the living spaces are filled with daylight while creating a route for passive stack ventilation through the house.

The interiors are tranquil, with the use of timber and carefully placed planters; there’s a tactile quality that brings a sense of grounding to the house. It’s a home that burrows down, and feels protective yet expansive inside.

Richard Gill, associate, Paul Archer Design

Massing model

Massing model

Client’s view

We first saw the plot for the house while searching for a two-bedroom flat in Islington. Building a home in our local borough was a distant and unaffordable dream, but accepting the complexities of the plot – tight proportions and the imminent lapse of the existing planning permission – somehow made this dream a possibility.

We interviewed five architects whose work we admired in order to rethink the approved design to suit my needs, and that of my late partner, who at the time was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Paul Archer’s sensitivity and genuine desire to see this project through for us was evident from the first meeting, so we instructed his practice immediately.

Paul and his team successfully maximised the entirety of the plot in which the house sits. The use of multiple sunken levels make the space feel spacious and flexible while the dual aspect to the courtyard and perforated bricks provide the interior with constant light as well as privacy. For me Aperture House provides a peaceful and optimistic environment in which to live and work in; in stark contrast to the personal circumstances during its construction. I suppose this is what good architecture can achieve.

Zoe Papadopoulou

Ground floor plan a3

Ground floor plan a3

Project data

Start on site March 2015
Completion April 2017
Gross internal floor area 90m²
Form of contract Minor Works Building Contract with contractor’s design portion 2011
Construction cost £495,000
Construction cost per m²
Paul Archer Design
Client Zoe Papadopoulou 

Structural engineer Hardman Structural Engineers 

Quantity surveyor Potter Raper Partnership
Interior designer Zoe Works Indoors
CDM coordinator Paul Archer Design
Approved building inspector BBS Building Control
Main contractor B&A Woodworking
CAD software used Vectorworks + SketchUp
Estimated annual CO2 emissions 1,920.41kg

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