It always feels good to kick off the new year with the AJ Small Projects. Having been on maternity leave, I was not involved with this year’s selection process - which was probably just as well. I have spent the best part of a year attempting (and failing) to realise a ‘small project’of my own. I have such admiration for any such venture which actually sees the light of day that I would have found it impossible to leave anything out.
Faced with a fixed deadline - the birth of a child - we adopted a formula which seemed impossible to refuse: a discreet rooftop extension, bringing the height of the building in line with the house next door, and an experienced first-rate architect. During the long months that followed I found myself in the peculiar position of acting as a judge for the Camden Design Awards in my capacity as editor of the AJ, while quietly doing battle with the planning department in my capacity as Camden resident. As a panel, we lamented the lack of high-quality domestic projects. As a client, I experienced interminable silence, followed by various ‘suggestions’designed to ensure that the approved application was barely distinguishable from the depressing mansard next door. By the time permission was granted (for a scheme which neither client or architect wanted to build), the baby was born, scuppering plans to ‘camp out’while construction was under way.
It is a decidedly humdrum whinge. There are infinitely more pressing and interesting planning issues, of which Camden has more than its fair share (vast social housing projects, the British Museum, the British Library, King’s Cross, etc). The small project is hardly a priority. But then it very rarely is. Not just for planners but for contractors, subcontractors and architects, not to mention their respective bank managers and accountants. So congratulations to all those who worked to deliver the projects shown in this and next week’s issue. And a big thank you to contractor Robin Ellis Design Build, (specialist in executing high-quality, small-scale projects on budget and on time) which sponsors the AJ Small Projects Awards every year.