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FIRST LOOK

Nissen Richards completes school-to-resi retrofit in Stoke Newington

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A reworking of Grange Hall, a late Georgian school in north London, into nine residential units

This scheme by Nissen Richards Studio sees the restoration and reworking of a building that was the former West Hackney National School. Built in 1837 and locally listed, it ceased being used as a school in the 1960s and was then occupied by an engineering component merchant for over 35 years as a store.

The original building, an impressive example of late Georgian architecture, was in a very poor state of repair both internally and externally, and this careful restoration and reuse was designed to preserve and augment the historic character of the existing fabric, with new features designed in a complementary yet contemporary manner.

JimStephenson 50

JimStephenson 50

Source: Jim Stephenson

Architect’s view

Our proposed careful approach to reuse was well received by the London Borough of Hackney, and the conservation officer in particular was involved in much of the initial discussions on the proposals. This dialogues continued through the detailed design process in order that the use of new materials, where needed, was appropriate to both the existing fabric and the overall architectural vision.

JimStephenson 5

JimStephenson 5

Source: Jim Stephenson

We have respected much of the original footprint and layout of the existing building, and utilised doorways and generally built the individual dwellings around each of these existing entrances. Architectural features including rubbed brick lintels, stone copings and stepped brick coursings are retained, refurbished and celebrated, and the existing timber A-frame roof structures within the main spaces have been adapted and retained to provide central features within the main living spaces.

Existing window openings have also been retained along the frontage, with new two-storey glazed openings formed along the main longitudinal elevations punched in between the existing masonry piers. New angled dormer windows have also been inserted in the large roofscapes and mimic the remains of existing dormers that were previously incorporated within the valley of the roofs, and ensure that these previously concealed spaces have been brought back into use. Where obvious contemporary insertions have been made, such as terraces, balconies, gates and fences, these have been undertaken in a robust yet respectful manner, and also provide a hint of the ‘personality’ of the architect.

The strategy for working with the existing fabric was to replace all timber windows and introduce new thermally efficient composite and aluminium windows. The existing masonry was upgraded internally with insulation fixed behind new wall linings and concrete floors were laid throughout, allowing new waterproofing and increased levels of insulation to be installed at low level. The existing roof was also stripped, with increased levels of insulation and breather membrane installed as part of a new slate roof covering.

Alexis Hamilton 16

Alexis Hamilton 16

Source: Alexis Hamilton

Grange Hall has been a labour of love for our practice. The extended programme could have led to a disjointed process between design and construction, but the team has continued to review and assess each detail, particularly as the construction phase threw up many technical and logistical challenges. Yet our single-minded desire to retain the overall architectural vision was maintained throughout as well as being consistently championed by our wonderful client. The result is a collection of unique contemporary dwellings that are embedded within the historic fabric, without the need to resort to gimmickry or pastiche. 

Jim Richards, director, Nissen Richards Studio

A1350 ground plan

A1350 ground plan

Source: Nissen Richards studio

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site January 2015
Completion May 2017
Gross internal area 985m²
Form of contract Traditional Lump Sum with Contractor Design Construction
Cost Undisclosed
Architect Nissen Richards Studio 
Client Cubitt Greystock 
Project manager / quantity surveyor Potter Raper Partnership
Structural engineer Price & Myers
Building services engineer Judd Consulting 
Integrated home technology Pinchpoint 
Garden design Zoe Slater Landscapes
Approved building inspector Butler + Young
Main contractor Gee Construction 
CAD software Vectorworks
Annual predicted CO2 emissions 33.51kg/m²

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