Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Small wonders

  • Comment
The variety of non-residential projects shown in Part 2 of this year's AJ Small Projects competition demonstrates that architectural ingenuity can make a small budget go a long way. Selected schemes from this week's and last week's articles will be exhibi


This water-sports facility is on the historic quayside in Pembroke adjacent to the scheduled town wall and overlooked by the Norman castle. Before conversion it had fallen into such a poor state of repair that it had been de-listed. Davies Sutton has altered it sympathetically to accommodate its new use. Only traditional materials were used and the building now houses an office and instruction room on the first floor with a boat store below. The roof is in natural Welsh slate, the walls partly rebuilt using lime-putty mortar, and a new oak balcony, screen and boat-store doors introduced to the front elevation. Slowikowski, Blackshaw & Partners was the structural engineer; the contractor was County Construction.

Cost: £65,000


In this pizza takeaway for Basilico in London, the architect's palette of materials - rough oak, stainless steel, ceramic tiles - and the colours emphasise the use of fresh natural produce. tzg Partnership was the structural engineer; Peak Contractors was the contractor.

Cost: £80,000


Finished in matt black tiles with the mouth framed in stainless steel, the oven itself is the pivotal point of the plan and the centre of activity behind the main preparation counter. Customers are made to feel they are within the kitchen as they witness the process of making the pizzas by hand. The external elevation is purposefully bold and conceived as a strong graphic statement on the street.


Raoul's Express is a takeaway delicatessen and patisserie in Maida Vale, London. The key component of the interior is a linear series of counters for service and display. They explore a palette of materials which are contemporary in their detailing but also evoke the traditional delicatessen: glass, stainless steel, wicker panels, marble and wood. Colours are fresh but muted. The contractor was Jonathan Stevens.

Cost: £120,000

Colours are fresh but muted, with a floor of waxed American walnut. Lighting is by tungsten filament lamps, held in a dense grid in purpose- made stainless steel fittings.


A single-storey extension and conversion of the existing entrance to The World Nightclub, Warrington, for client Maximum Effect, provides a chill-out room which can be used as a separate space when required. The site is in a conservation area and external walls are built to site boundaries. At the midpoint of the plan the floor narrows, creating the opportunity to have two seating areas either side of a raised 'tunnel'. The bar is at one end of the room, backing on to an existing bar, and can be closed by a lockable roller shutter which is kept out of sight when not in use. Walls are clad in removable mdf panels with a spray gloss paint finish. Fixed and loose seating uses the same base module. Many items were formed from WilsonArt, which is easily cleaned and permits stains to be rubbed or sanded away. The ceiling is in metal tiles and the floor in ceramic tiles.

Cost: £90,000


Coffee Union in Liverpool is the company's first and flagship outlet. The brief was for a modern functional space with adaptable fixtures and fittings. Materials were to be durable, easily cleaned and conducive to a comfortable atmosphere. The counter is faced in oak with a slate top; an oak bench maximises seating and conceals light fittings. A curved ceiling panel, painted in Coffee Union aubergine, conceals ventilation equipment and lighting. A reading area in Coffee Union yellow/orange has space for comfy armchairs. The fully glazed shop front gives maximum light and views into the interior.

Cost: £60,000


An industrial shell in Clerkenwell, London, has been retained and exploited to create flexible spaces with a salvaged industrial aesthetic. The refurbishment of 6/7 Cross Street provided the perfect environment for media company TV Strategy Group. The scheme includes a series of offices, editing suites, a focus-group room and viewing facilities. The materials used throughout the scheme complement the industrial environment. Industrial remnants and redundant media artefacts are strategically placed throughout as a continuing archaeological commentary.

Cost: £85,665


Robin Greenwood Contemporary Metalwork in association with Blauel Architects carried out a rooftop extension to rgcm's live/work premises in Bermondsey, London. The aluminium roof deck comprises two layers of profiled 1mm panels which self-span between supporting steelwork. The layers are spaced apart by lightweight pressed-steel thermally broken sections running lengthwise, and the void between is filled with 160mm fibreglass insulation. The walls have an insulation layer, air space and rainscreen cladding. Most of the work was done 'in house'.

Cost: £85,000


Rapidly expanding advertising and Internet production company K9 appointed Buckley Gray to design new office space and provide a clear identity for its management group. The eighteenth-century building is in the City of London off Cloth Fair. Ground and basement floors have been opened up with a new staircase void along the rear wall and a rooflight above; a curved orange wall appears to float between the two levels. The ground- floor reception has a curved back wall and Curly Birch panelling incorporating a door to the main staircase. Front windows were extended to floor level and a new entrance created to provide visual presence and rationalise circulation. The upper floors have wcs in vertically stacked red 'pods' visible through existing windows. Structural engineer was Michael Hadi Associates; the main contractor was J J Builders & Contractors.

Cost: £80,000


When Buckley Gray was commissioned by specialist plaster company Armourcoat to fit-out a 1970s industrial unit in Sevenoaks, Kent, as a warehouse with mixing and sample areas as well as office space, the architect saw the potential for including this double-height display gallery as a marketing tool where clients could view products, attend demonstrations and seek advice. Access to the gallery is from the main entrance; an open maple- tread steel staircase leads to an upper walkway made of the same materials. The gallery has become a focal point for staff and visitors. Howard Cavanna and Associates was structural engineer; the main contractor was PJ Bennetts.

Cost: £110,000


The Straw Bale Shed in Perthshire is the architect's response to a brief that called for a warm, energy-efficient modern garden office on a tight budget and a tight site. The construction comprises almost entirely natural or reclaimed material sourced locally. The larch roundpole structure, carrying the raised floor platform and curved planted roof, is braced with stainless-steel yachting cable. The floor supports the lime-rendered straw bale walls, stitched together with hazel coppice. Floor and ceiling are insulated with untreated sheep's wool and the whole shed is moisture transfusive. With materials as with form, the design works with contrasts: undulating bale walls and precise joinery, rough roundpole larch and render against cable bracing, limewashed walls framing the reclaimed gas mains pipe 'porthole'. Buro Happold was the engineer, the contractor was Charles Dobb, Design Build.

Cost: £17,500 approx


Three mega-scale, richly coloured picture frames float behind a full- height etched-glass screen in the reception area of advertising consultancy, Clark Hooper Consulting, in Slough, which has been refurbished by ksk Associates. The screens provide privacy to the boardroom while their flip sides act as projection and display screens. A new opening was made in the corner of the reception to allow a barrier-free route to the conference space for clients. The existing reception desk was recycled, relocated and reclad, becoming a combination of punched stainless steel and multi- coloured recycled plastic fronting the strong grid of an existing multi- paned glazed screen which was used as a backdrop. Morgan Lovell D&B was the contractor.

Cost: £40,0000


The commission to design a headquarters office for Hal Miramax in central London was won in competition by Rivington Street Studio. The brief called for the fitting out of a derelict office to provide an exciting but comfortable working environment for the new film company. Spaces include an open-plan studio, shared meeting rooms, a reception area, kitchen, screening room and ancillary facilities.

Cost: £14,000


The London office for television company Brighter Pictures, at the top of a 1960s building in Brixton, is Surface Architects' first built project. The design is based around a spiral motif abstracted from Brighter Pictures' company logo. From the open-plan entrance, the spiral proceeds clockwise along the length of the space, defining different zones with alternating finishes. Ceiling forms are shifted out of phase with their finishes. An array of glossy-pink work surfaces is arranged loosely between the orthogonal building grid and the more fluid spiral motif, resulting in a functional informality which encourages interaction between project teams. The contractor was Simmonds of Kensington.

Cost: £76,700


Funded by the charities lottery, the 72m2 extension to the existing Environment Centre in Swansea provides computer access, a cafe, library and information on environmental issues. The two-storey building is naturally ventilated, with solar-powered extract fans, and includes recycled-newspaper and cork insulation. The main timber-trussed structure is supported by green oak columns from nearby woods, with a steel frame to dissipate wind loads. A spiral stair gives access to the lower turf roof and the first floor. Expressed materials include oak, pine, cedar, beech-faced plywood, galvanised steel, slate, aluminium and natural stone. The engineer was W S Atkins and the builder was Bennett Brothers.

Cost: £103,735


Tinder Box is a young post-production company based in Soho, central London. Its new offices, designed by Project Orange, comprise a series of formal and informal editing suites and offices defined by a variety of partitions. Rooms are boldly coloured and united by a meandering corridor which culminates in the central reception area and meeting point. The intention was to create a workplace that was comfortable and quasi-domestic. In the evening, when staff are working late, lights can be dimmed and rooms transformed into an urban retreat. The main contractor was Peak Contractors.

Cost: £40,000


This training-centre extension to the Scottish Industries Training and Management Service replaces three relocatable buildings and provides new training and lecture rooms with extra office space and wcs. The cedar- clad extension takes the form of a separate building sandwiched between two new brick walls which emerge from the existing 1970s administration block. The new circulation zone acts as exhibition space, stitching together old and new and enclosing a courtyard between. Internal spaces focus on the courtyard and are defined by large expanses of colour and maple cladding. The overhanging profiled-aluminium roof and clerestory glazing enhance the relocated reception area and address the principal training building opposite. David Narro Associates was the structural engineer; Fleming Buildings was the contractor.

Cost: £111,000


Ten market-stall units, of approximately 30m2 each, at the back of Bradbury Street in Hackney, east London are the second phase of a larger completed scheme by Hawkins Brown. They replace temporary lean-tos built in the 1980s and can be used as stalls or lock-ups and small walk-in shops. The client, Hackney Co-operative Development, envisages a wide range of starter businesses inhabiting the units. The prefabricated units slope forward, making them difficult to climb; roller shutters are also curved, and detailing is purposely monolithic to enhance the appearance of durability. Internal materials include painted plywood floors and plaster walls; service connections are provided. When open, the units - each with its shop window and door - look much more inviting. Structural engineer was Price & Myers; QS was Hanscomb; services engineer was Michael Popper Associates; and general contractor was Durkan Pudelek. Unit fabrication was by Commercial Systems.

Cost: £144,000


Jamieson Associates has transformed Pritchards Menswear in Hereford from a traditional gentlemen's clothes shop into a modern retail outlet. The original shop front and internal dividing walls were all stripped out. A new seamless glass fascia was inserted behind the building facade and the load-bearing chimney stack in the centre of the plan lost within a lacewood veneered sales pod.

Cost: £48,000


The architect designed purpose-built offices on Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, for its own occupation. The timber-framed and cedar-clad building is set into the ground to reduce its impact on the garden setting while minimising heat loss. Large areas of solar glazing to the south and west elevations, small windows and a beech hedge screen to the north elevation have resulted in underfloor heating being used for less than 30 days a year. Passive cooling is achieved with high insulation, an open ceiling, overhead fans and skylight vents. The open stressed-ply roof and raft foundation were designed by structural engineer Ellis and Moore. The architect acted as contract manager and all materials were brought by barge to the island.

Cost: £140,000


A floor in 1960s offices in London has been transformed into a Buddhist retreat: Agon Shu, a place of quiet contemplation. Accommodation is defined by glass, sliding screens and delicately poised joinery items. The sweeping curve of a dropped bulkhead embraces the centre's main space and provides a protective backdrop to other more practical interventions. Light from Queen Square is encouraged deep into the plan and connects the interior with the passing of time. Further play is made on the inside/outside theme in the treatment of the point of arrival from the lifts as a pseudo external court which provides views into the centre through a staggered glass screen reminiscent of the petals of a lotus flower. The contractor was Chase CIC.

Cost: £62,000


Austin Winkley has reordered the Church of the Holy Family, RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire. Alterations included removing existing sanctuary steps and furniture, reconfiguring the internal organisation and commissioning David John to design furniture and sculptor Victoria Rance to produce the metal tester behind the altar. Altar and ambo now rest on a new Pink Hampole stone floor surrounded by a maple wood-block border. A small reconciliation room and wc have been added and a large single entrance area created to bring the congregation into the centre of the nave on a day-to-day basis. The client was raf rc Trustees Fund; the contractor was Lindencroft.

Cost (including artists' fees) : £125,000


The Students' Union is housed in the Macadam Building on Surrey Street and forms part of King's College London's Strand campus. The students required an entrance which would improve access to their building and create a meeting place and a point of orientation within the campus as a whole. The brief called for accommodation comprising a reception and office for the Students' Union, lobby space for meetings, storage and a new porter's lodge. The scheme seeks to improve the visual impact of the entrance approach from the Strand or from Embankment by incorporating a stainless-steel and glass canopy over the entrance which is spotlit at night. Internally the space is a simple composition of bull-nosed walls cutting into what is primarily a rectangular space.

Cost: £106,000


The coach-house to this rectory at Llandow, South Wales, dates from the mid-nineteenth century and is listed Grade II. The Diocese of Llandaff appointed Davies Sutton to develop it as a retreat and day-centre for contemplation and counselling. Accommodation includes a chapel and vestry for formal prayer and a meeting room for relaxed discussion. Historic features have been sensitively restored yet express the vernacular building's new function. A new steel-framed extension houses the staircase giving access to the first floor through the original hay-loft door, and framed glazed screens replace damaged or removed historic fabric. The engineer was Slowikowski, Blackshaw & Partners, the contractor was DB Quant.

Cost: £116,000


The brief called for a workshop/garage for rac petrol vans and an equipment store, thereby providing a sheltered working environment for maintenance and storage. The site is at Bescot rac Supercentre, Walsall. The structure is steel frame with cross bracing, externally spray-painted with a galvanised internal finish. Cladding is in pressed 1.2mm steel louvre blades; doors visually match the cladding. Alan Baxter and Associates was the engineer, Gleeds the qs, Tarmac Construction West Midlands was the main contractor.

Cost: £90,000


Listed Grade II*, the Shell Grotto was built by a hermit in the early 1800s and stands on a hilltop in Pontypool Park, Wales. The circular stone building has a modest rusticated exterior which gives little clue to the interior, which is encrusted with exotic shells, minerals and starfish; the floor is made from the bones of horse and deer. The largely ruined grotto was recorded and restored using a mixture of traditional materials and scientific techniques. Torfaen Borough Council acted as engineer and qs; the contractor was Nick Barter for the exterior, and St Blaise Construction for the interior.

Cost: £140,000

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.