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First look

Conibere Phillips completes ‘Tardis-like’ mid-terrace house in Brockley

  • 4 Comments

The four-bedroom home, designed for one of the practice’s directors and his family, reworks the Victorian terrace type

Conibere Phillips have designed a new-build mid-terrace family house in Brockley, London. 

The ground floor of the 150m² house has a large combined  kitchen, dining and living room which opens out to the back garden, as well as a utility and shower room and sitting / TV room. On the first floor is a family bathroom, three double bedrooms and a study. The 2nd floor has the master bedroom and en-suite bathroom (for future fitout).

Throughout the house, materials such as structural beech (BauBuche) and beech plywood have been used in order to give a warmth to many of the interior spaces, increased by the use of a cork floor used at ground-floor level. Elsewhere in contrast exposed fair-faced blocks (by Forticrete) with recessed pointing appear in some rooms. Where possible, recessed slots have been incorporated for blinds and curtain tracks, leaving the rooms as clutter-free as possible.

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0003 2020 06 img 7008 hdr

Source: Conibere Phillips

Architects view

In considering how to approach the project, a wide range of options were investigated, from extending and refurbishing to a full new-build. Ultimately, it was determined that the vast majority of the existing structure would have to be replaced even for the more modest options, which pushed the decision towards the full rebuild and the various benefits that flowed from that.

The original house on the site was late-Victorian but unique on the street – substantially different to one immediate neighbour and subtly different to the other. The decision came down to a debate – partly with planning considerations about whether to retain the failing front elevation – and thus whether the project would be officially classed as a full rebuild or just one in all practical senses but not officially.

The planning process was complex and involved numerous applications of different types – as a result of the design development gradually increasing the scope of the project and as a means to enable constructive discussions with the planners. Throughout there was a strong sense of wanting to create something genuinely positive for the local community: a simple but elegant terraced house that is respectful of the context without falling in to the trap of pastiche.

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0003 2020 06 img 6863 hdr

Source: Conibere Phillips

The design takes the best of lessons learnt from carefully studying terraced houses, influenced by modern building methods – with a healthy dose of requirements from a challenging client in my wife – and a difficult client in myself! It is a design that sought to maximise the use of space fully in all three dimensions.  The house is tardis-like in spatial quality; apparently modest externally yet surprisingly generous internally. The freedom to subtly adjust floor levels enabled a dramatically larger loft room than would typically be possible, while giving height to the most important and largest rooms, ensuring excellent proportions for every space.

To the front, the elevation is a simple modern brick wall with inset concealed frame triple-glazed windows and a beautiful standing-seam roof with concealed gutter. The study window is pushed forwards to be flush with the brick face as a counterpoint to the recess of the front door that provides shelter without the clumsiness of a bolt-on canopy or porch. 

At the rear, the house takes on a vaguely ziggurat-like form to minimise the impact on the neighbours, and is influenced by and responds to the surrounding Victorian terraced houses and their additions. What might have typically been an extremely clunky ‘L shaped dormer’ is broken down in massing by cladding part of it in ultra low-iron white glass channels. The first floor is faced in the same brick as the front and the ground floor has a very large fixed window and an similarly-sized single sliding door that allows it to open out to the garden.

Robin Phillips, founding director, Conibere Phillips

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0003 section bb 1 25 no border

Source: Conibere Phillips

Section BB

Project data

Start on site September 2017
Completion date March 2019 (family moved in) / Ongoing
Gross internal floor area 150 m2
Form of contract or procurement route Traditional / RIBA Domestic Contract 2014
Construction cost £400,000
Construction cost per m£2,500 (approx)
Architect Conibere Phillips
Client Private
Structural engineer SD Structures (Ian Stephenson)
Approved building inspector JHAI
Main contractor Create Bespoke
CAD software used Powerdraft (Microstation) and Rhino for Mac

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • Interesting. I'm not sure I'm convinced about the front elevation, but note the previous building as a progenitor. As for "the recess of the front door [...] provides shelter without the clumsiness of a bolt-on canopy or porch", you eman just like the house next door and indeed all the rest? Recessed porches have been around for some time! The interior isn't to my taste but at least it lacks the bare ply and concrete floor aesthetic that appears so often now.

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  • Really nice project. The structural beech is a particular favourite - a great blend of traditional and modern.

    Re. Chris above. Yes the period houses either side do have recessed porches, but most modern houses do not. Far from being a mark against it I think what is most successful about the approach is that it has taken the positives from both modern and traditional design and learnt from both

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  • not convinced!

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  • The architect's description of the street elevation of the previous house is practically meaningless without an image 'as was'.

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