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The Corner House, Greenwich, by Friend and Company Architects

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The stripped-down, utilitarian design uses only glass and wood to allow a furniture-like construction of stacking components

The design of Friend and Company Architects’ Corner House in Greenwich, London, involves a simple concept: everything vertical is glass and everything horizontal is wood. Floors, kitchen worktop, bathroom vanity unit, stair treads and bookshelves are all made from structural timber planks.

We approached the interior structure as if it were furniture, using just two materials for its construction with the quality of these materials as the primary focus of the stripped-down, utilitarian design.

The construction, developed with Graham Dodd from ARUP Materials Consulting, uses the two materials in a simple stacking-component system, alternating between glass and wooden planks.

The exceptions to this are the glass stringers of each stair flight. Here, slots for the timber stair treads were cut into the glass using a water jet and it is fitted with a snap-fit detail more commonly seen in product design.


This assembly logic not only characterises the new interior, but has also driven the layout, and the 3.2m x 2m frameless rooflight that fills the stairwell. The structure does not use mechanical fixings and installation was quicker than a typical Ikea flat-pack.

Staircase construction: The design uses an innovative method to connect glass and timber and the latest in water-jet technology.

By using laminated safety glass rather than toughened glass, we were able to polish exposed edges and the surface is free of distortion. Loads are transferred equally between glass and wood surfaces without the need for intermediate layers.

Slots for the Dinesen timber stair treads were cut into the main stair stringers using a water jet. Iron oxide in sand is what gives most float glass its greenish hue. We used low iron or ‘water white’ glass stringers, water jet-cut in Germany.

The relationship between the components of the timber-to-glass junctions and their detailed design varies depending on location from the flush radius tongues trapped by the stringer and balustrades to the treads that are friction-fitted to the stringer.

We used Finite Element Method software to calculate and predict structural glass behaviour under different load combinations, including dead and live loads. As a result, the timber stair treads and library shelving appear to float on air.

Adrian Friend


Adrian Friend studied at Kingston University and the Bartlett School of Architecture. He has worked with Alsop and Stormer, John McAslan + Partners and Hodder Associates. He says: ‘We find solutions to complex architectural problems and are interested in exploiting the structural possibilities of materials.’


Start on site December 2009
Completion January 2011
Gross floor area 77m2
Form of contract or procurement JCT Minor Works
Cost per square metre £5,324
Client Private
Architect Friend and Company Architects
Structural engineer Arup Material Consulting
M&E consultant Arup
Quantity surveyor Friend and Company Architects
Project manager Friend and Company Architects
Main contractor IPIG
CDM coordinator Friend and Company Architects
Approved building inspector Building Control Greenwich
Annual co2 emissions Not calculated

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