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AJ Small Projects shortlist 2020: Part 2

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The first half of the 20 contenders for AJ Small Projects 2020 has been revealed, showcasing the best architectural schemes built for £250,000 or less

This year, the AJ Small Projects award is marking its 25th anniversary, having recognised the best of the small, the modest and the budget in architecture for the past quarter of a century. 

These schemes exemplify small-cost, big architecture; creative and inspired projects that push innovation, sustainability and the envelope of what’s possible on a tight budget. 

The coronavirus crisis means the designers will now present their projects remotely to this year’s judges: Stephen Bates, Allan Sylvester, Selina Mason and last year’s winner, David Leech.

We will be revealing the full AJ Small Projects shortlist over the coming week. The winner will be announced at the end of April and a rescheduled celebratory event will follow later in the year.

AJ Small Projects is run in association with Marley


Cass School of Architecture 

Cass Studio 

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The Cass Studio is a low-carbon, highly flexible space that can be built anywhere. It was designed to meet the parameters of the Caravan Act, meaning it would not normally require planning permission. It was built in 12 days and its design can be adapted with minimal modification for multiple sites and programmes including living, working and education. 

Its form draws inspiration from cantilevered barns traditionally used for agricultural storage. The building is raised from the ground, creating a belvedere above the line of surrounding hemp. The minimal material palette consists of cast in-situ Hempcrete; a spruce stud and plywood superstructure; Accoya acetylated softwood footings and custom-made windows, door and stair; wood-fibre insulation and hemp fibre bio-resin corrugated cladding sheets.

Less than a cubic metre of concrete was required for pad foundations and there is potential for this to be completely eliminated. The building is effectively carbon negative, with a biomass stove and solar power.   

Location Huntingdon | Completion April 2019 | Gross internal floor area 30m2 |Client The Cass | Photography David Grandorge

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library



Clementine Blakemore Architects

St John’s Music Pavilion (Phase 2)

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This teaching space for St John’s primary school in Lacey Green, Buckinghamshire, was initiated by the practice as a self-built student project five years ago – part of a look at alternative models for the delivery of small-scale educational buildings. 

The timber-framed structure overlooks farmland, its double-pitched form referencing the vernacular language of local agricultural buildings, as well as being inspired by the geometry of artist Agnes Martin’s work. 

The building’s side walls and roof are clad in black lapped weatherboard while the front is faced with a larch rainscreen with a large bi-folding door extending the width of the larger gable. Semi-translucent polycarbonate panels clad the rear gable ends.

The structure has been formed of 171 tapered timber members, which were CNC-milled at a local fabrication studio and assembled by hand as an interlocking lattice. Once put together, the flush side of the lattice faced outwards while the pitch tapered inwards, allowing for easy attachment of the external cladding and creating a decorative undulating plane to the interior. 

Location Lacey Green, Buckinghamshire | Completion January 2019 | Gross internal floor area 40m² | Client St John’s School | Photography Will Scott

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library



Emanuel Hendry

Haldon Viewpoints

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This project, for Forestry England, consists of two timber viewpoints and one nature hide, which sit within Haldon Woods in Devon. Timber frame construction and carpentry expert Emanuel Hendry won the commission through a design-and-build competition in 2018. 

The simple and similar timber structures were made out of UK-grown untreated larch. They were manufactured offsite and installed in just under two months during spring 2019. Chestnut piling was used for the foundations, minimising the impact on the forest’s delicate ecology and avoiding using concrete and steel for the footings.  

Location Exeter | Completion April 2019 | Gross internal floor area 52m² | Client Forestry England | Photography Mike Smallcombe, Nick Barker and Emanuel Hendry

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library



Haysom Ward Miller Architects

2b Derwent Close

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The house is in the middle of a 1960s housing development in Cambridge. Its brick walls wrap around the site’s 85m2 footprint with a flat roof laid on top, allowing for several internal courtyard gardens. The roof overhangs the single-storey space in key places to make a series of covered outdoor spaces without dominating the street.

Inside, the ceilings reach the top of the roof joists to maximise floor-to-ceiling heights. The roof is raised further at the centre of the home to create a tall and airy hall, while the secondary spaces are arranged around as alcoves with long views across the plan.

The material palette is simple but textured. Exposed joists have been left unpainted while, around the edge, a birch-ply band contains the services and extra insulation. Exposed aggregate concrete paving in the entrance porch carries inside to the floor finish. The brick wall’s plaster has a gritty, hand-worked finish to it. 

Location Cambridge | Completion January 2019 | Gross internal floor area 85m² | Client Private | Photography Richard Fraser

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library



Hugh Strange Architects

Eucalyptus Painting Studio

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Beneath a large eucalyptus tree within a London garden, Hugh Strange Architects has created a small studio space for painting. Its foundations were designed to minimise its impact on the tree’s roots. Six small steel piles support a steel frame lifted slightly above the earth, meaning no digging or concrete was required for the groundworks. Above this, sits the 20m2 wooden structure with two stud walls and floor joists clad in timber. The other walls and roof are formed out of exposed Douglas fir.

The studio is entered through sliding doors, revealing a central timber column within. A painting desk sits to one end with storage and brush washing at the other. 

Location London SE15 | Completion December 2019 | Gross internal floor area 20m² | Client Private | Photography David Grandorge

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library



Alder Brisco

Studio Represent

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This third-floor loft space was originally part of a warehouse dating back to 1883 and had been derelict for years. Recruitment agency Represent commissioned Alder Brisco to refurbish the building’s top-floor shell to create a series of meeting rooms, amenity spaces and desk space for up to 16 employees in an incredibly short timeline of only three months.

Upon initially working with the space, the practice discovered that the original goods lift was still intact with frame, gears and pulley wheel. To tie together the building’s history and Farringdon market surroundings, the brickwork, ceilings and goods lift have all been painted white, while original pine floors have been sanded and refinished with a whitening oil to match. New rooms as independent entities have been formed beneath the warehouse.  

Location London EC1 | Completion April 2019 | Gross internal floor area 90m² | Client Represent | Photography Agnese Sanvito

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library



Annabelle Tugby Architects

The Workshop

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Annabelle Tugby Architects was looking for a new home, having outgrown its previous studio. It found a semi-derelict workshop, and made an early decision to leave the main space whole, providing the main drawing space, while adding ancillary spaces – a meeting room and WC – as part of a single-storey timber-frame extension.

The original rendered building was overclad in whitewashed brick, while the extension was clad in large black timber panels; a juxtaposition in both scale and tone further emphasised by the extension’s irregular shape, sitting against the more traditional form of the existing workshop. 

A full-length rooflight along the ridge of the roof fills the working space with natural light while rear glazing opens the building up to face a landscape of fields and trees.  

Location Styal, Cheshire | Completion August 2019 | Gross internal floor area 65m² | Client Annabelle Tugby Architects

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library



BÜF Architecture

Ellis House

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This extension to a two-storey terraced house in Ilford aims to create a simpler layout and connect with the garden, creating an internal courtyard at the centre. The courtyard brings natural light into the plan and subdivides the ground floor into the three main areas of domesticity: living, kitchen and dining.

Veneered timber beams, columns and joists as well as tinted plywood panelling add to the warm material language. The simple moves give the house an openness to the garden, while remaining private beyond the courtyard’s internal boundaries. 

Location Ilford, London | Completion September 2018 | Gross internal floor area 45m² | Client Private | Photography Edmund Sumner

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library

Bunkall Architects 

Courtyard for a wine merchant

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This 11m2 internal courtyard was created by removing an existing infill extension to an east London Victorian terrace. An oak-clad concrete box creates an outdoor terrace, accessed directly from the home’s upper ground kitchen, and below provides a cellar for the client who is a wine merchant. At lower ground level is a flat whose bedroom sits just adjacent to the courtyard. A one-way mirror door provides light into the bedroom but reflects the garden on the other side so that one cannot see within. 

The courtyard’s surfaces use reclaimed materials: the oak comes from flooring used in French cattle railway carriages; the hexagon terracotta tiles are from various projects; and the reconfigured Portland Stone originates from the Paternoster Square development next to St Paul’s Cathedral. The extensive use of oak for decking, cladding, balustrades, windows and doors aims to give the space a feeling of an ‘outdoor room’ while the existing party wall is painted an earth-red colour to give the sense of the courtyard having been excavated. 

Location London E5 | Completion April 2019 | Gross internal floor area 11m² | Client Private | Photography Max Creasy

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library



CAN + Harry Lawson

All That Could Have Been

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CAN and artist Harry Lawson have worked together to design this installation for Sir John Soane’s Museum, exploring the relationship between architecture, objects and time. It takes the form of three cabinets – All That Was, All That Is and All That Could Have Been – with a number of objects placed in each one. 

All That Was is in the form of a retained façade with over-scaled red oxide buttresses propping it; All That Is takes the form of a scaffold to reflect the idea of construction in a state of flux; and All That Could Have Been is in the form of a tomb, finished in a recycled ‘rubber rock’ material to reflect the unrealised. 

Location London WC2 | Completion January 2020 | Gross internal floor area 20m| Client Sir John Soane’s Museum | Photography Tim Bowditch

See more photos and drawings of this project in the AJ Buildings Library


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