The space has a stripped-back aesthetic, highlighting historical features reminiscent of the building’s previous use as a school
Designed as a ‘solid piece of joinery’ inserted into an existing building, the two-storey apartment has been constructed out of over 30,000 individually cut and laid cross-section blocks made of European oak.
Located within Kingsway Place in London’s Clerkenwell – on the same estate as Hidden House, also by Coffey Architects – the existing flat was part of a Grade II-listed building dating to 1892. It was converted from a school to residential use in 2000 and was in need of some reconfiguration to celebrate the space’s historic features.
Coffey Architects stripped back all non-original features, leaving the envelope open and bare to maximise space and the sense of openness. An existing mezzanine has been reconfigured over the large double-height living room. Original 3m-tall Victorian timber sash windows, glazing and cornicing in the main space have been restored.
A contemporary kitchen and dining area sits behind the living area with sliding pocket doors to the space. The staircase has been moved and re-routed for efficiency, leading up to the study area which looks back over the double-height space. Japanese-inspired sliding screens separate the study area from the master bedroom.
Original glazed green bricks have been revealed to line the perimeter of the ground floor and contrast with the new timber blocks which were individually hand cut and laid by the contractor. The blocks cover most of the floor space in the living room, kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, and office space on mezzanine level.
In addition, the timber blocks make up the ceiling above the kitchen and dining room, and stair and handrail connecting the two floors. The woodgrain texture was chosen to complement the stripped oak timber joinery lining three sides of the flat for partition walls.
The concept for the design was to celebrate the history of the building and make a clear definition between old and new. Apartment Block is a modern piece of hand-crafted, inhabited joinery that is inserted into a historic envelope; the two fuse together in light and material richness.
We see this clearly with the screens on the windows, which cast constantly moving shadows on to the walls of the apartment throughout the day, and also at night from the streetlamp outside. What’s more, by extending the mezzanine we are playing with the ’compression and release’ design principle. One first enters the compressed anti-space under the mezzanine, then is ‘released’ into a large, bright double-height volume.
Likewise, the 30,000 timber blocks are a contemporary twist on the typically Victorian building technique of parquet. What results is a playful and unique nod to the heritage of this space.
Ella Wright, project architect, Coffey Architects
To achieve what we all wanted depended on fanatical attention to detail and the very best quality in construction. It has been a hugely enjoyable experience to work with architects and craftspeople of such skill. Together they have created a truly peaceful and beautiful place. It’s a work of art and a great space to wake up in.
Start on site February 2019
Completion July 2019
Form of contract or procurement route Traditional
Architect Coffey Architects
Structural engineer Morph Structures
Main contractor Woods London
Joinery subcontractor James Wilkie
Furniture Carl Hansen & Son