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AJ Small Projects shortlist 2020

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Here are the 20 contenders for AJ Small Projects 2020 – and you can now vote for your favourite in our readers’ poll

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 built for £250,000 or less 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 reveal the final five shortlisted projects tomorrow. 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

Sandy Rendel Architects

The Slot House

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£224,000

This house sits in a narrow 2.8m-wide break in an existing terrace, on a plot that had lain vacant for a number of years. It highlights the viability – economically and spatially – of small brownfield sites.

To avoid loading the neighbouring structures and utilities that run under the site, the house is constructed using a lightweight steel frame on a piled slab. 

The steelwork was prefabricated as a series of portal frames craned down the alley and welded together on site. Alongside the painted steel, the interior is lined with a simple palette of spruce plywood, Douglas-fir joists, terrazzo and cork flooring. Externally, the timber framed walls are clad in handmade pewter glazed tiles. This self-build project had a long gestation, fitting around professional and family life, with the architects working closely with joiner Michael Tye and a small team of local subcontractors and specialist fabricators. 

Location London SE15 | Completion May 2019 | Gross internal floor area 64m2Client Private | Photography Jim Stephenson

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

 

 

ScottWhitbyStudio

Tri-Pod

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£20,000

This project had an unusual brief: to design a space where a ‘thruple’ could sleep, play and relax.

The project combines two high-ceilinged first-floor rooms of a south London terraced house, inverting traditional bedroom layouts of furniture set against the walls, with a crafted piece of joinery, incorporating a bed in the centre, lit from the windows at both ends. 

Referencing a traditional four-poster, the bed incorporates integrated storage and a hidden staircase, which leads to an upper level for whisky-tasting, yoga and reading. Below this, an expansive sleeping area has an extra-large mattress to allow the threesome to be together in comfort.

As one of the trio suffers from a sleep disorder, the sides of the sleeping area close up, to insulate it from street noise and the Heathrow flight path. The walnut-cladding – chosen to complement an antique dresser – is sustainably sourced and simply detailed. 

Location Mitcham, London | Completion June 2019 | Gross internal floor area 17m2Client Private | Photography Nicolas Worley

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

 

 

Studio Ben Allen

A Room in the Garden

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£28,500

This project is part garden folly, part ‘other space’, relieving a congested urban home and allowing family members to work, play, read, sleep or enjoy a moment of quiet. 

It is designed to be simple enough for self-build assembly and reassembly, coming as a flat-pack kit of parts, fully fabricated on a CNC machine. It embraces principles of circular, ultra-low VOC design both in assembly and use. 

Its green patterned cladding surreally camouflages it in its surroundings while the structure is an interplay of geometric forms, with octagonal walls rising to a hexagonal roof, framing a square skylight. The timber columns supporting the walls converge to form a truss-like structure forming the roof, converging on a central skylight.  

Location London SW15 | Completion December 2018 | Gross internal floor area 12m2Client Private | Photography Ben Tynegate

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

 

 

Szczepaniak Astridge

Untitled House

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£200,000

The remodelling and extension of a masonry Victorian house was developed around the conceptual idea of a concrete sculpture inserted to its rear, consisting of a foundation, floor slab, column, ceiling and bath. 

Taking inspiration from the work of Gordon Matta Clark in abandoned buildings in 1970s New York, the architect created a vertical void between ground-floor kitchen sink and first-floor bathroom, enabling a connection between eating, cooking and bathing.

The new ground-level garden façade was designed as a moving piece of timber joinery with a large overhang to protect from the rain. The doors pivot centrally and lock into the metal framework when open. The façade was subcontracted out to Assemble, working to designs by Szczepaniak Astridge. 

The bathroom was designed to be a place removed from the distractions of modern life, its concrete finishes complemented with a salami-coloured stone used to form the sink and base of the bath. 

Location London SE5 | Completion August 2019 | Gross internal floor area 91m2Client Private | Photography Nicholas Worley

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

 

 

Will Gamble Architects

The Parchment Works

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£245,000

This contemporary extension within the historic walls of a scheduled monument in Northamptonshire is intended as a ‘building within a building’ comprising two glass boxes hidden behind the walls. 

The new elements were constructed using materials such as Cor-ten, oak and reclaimed brick. Most of the materials were upcycled and sourced onsite, consistent with the circular nature of the project. 

This scheme also includes the conversion of a cattle shed within the curtilage of a Grade II-listed Victorian property.  

Location Gretton, Northamptonshire | Completion November 2018 | Gross internal floor area 180m2Client Private | Photography Johan Dehlin

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

 

Maich Swift Architects

Potemkin Theatre

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£18,232

This little theatre was the third annual Architecture Foundation Antepavilion commission. Self-built, it provided valuable construction experience for architecture students and volunteers.

The timber-frame structure is dressed with a painted canvas lining, its colours harmonising with the surrounding trees and canal. The composition and arrangement of windows and stairways is a reimagination of Monsieur Hulot’s house in Jacques Tati’s 1958 film Mon Oncle. The other side of the structure is left open, revealing the interior and thinness of the canvas frontage. The frame has four different platform levels connected by a stairway and ladder. 

The project uses cheap, readily available materials that are natural and renewable or easily recycled, including canvas, laminated veneer lumber, spruce plywood and linseed oil paint.

The emphasis was on flexibility for a wide range of public events, with a stage orientated out towards the canal and surrounding streets. The theatre hosted 20 different events, including talks, discussions and film screenings including Mon Oncle.  

Location London E2 | Completion July 2019 | Gross internal floor area 54m² | Client Private | Photography David Grandorge

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

 

 

Martin Edwards Architects

House in North Wales

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£120,000

This 19th-century house, sited in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Snowdonia, had become largely inaccessible to an owner reliant on a wheelchair.

The new design and remodelling were developed in close collaboration with the clients and care team, and aimed to maintain and add to the character of the original. 

An existing outbuilding’s stone walls were retained below a new roof, providing a dining room and kitchen. A new building contains a bedroom and bathroom, offset in plan to create a small sheltered outdoor space. Large openings provide panoramic views of Snowdonia. 

New elements are simply detailed using local materials, with the extension’s highly insulated timber frame clad in corrugated sheeting common to surrounding agricultural shelters.

Internally new walls and ceilings are lined with painted timber boarding, with a pigmented concrete floor throughout. High levels of insulation and under-floor heating improve thermal comfort and reduce energy use. 

Location Wales | Completion July 2018 | Gross internal floor area 75m2Client Private | Photography Max Creasy

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

 

 

Mitchell Eley Gould Architects

Cutty Sark

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£180,000

The project is a complete refurbishment and vertical extension of a pebble-dashed bungalow in rural Somerset known locally as the ‘Ugly House’. The remodel sought to retain the existing structure and footprint while updating the home to suit its owners and take advantage of the site’s previously underused assets, such as the view over Chew Valley Lake, its village surroundings and south-facing plot.

The stairs have been retained but its roof has been replaced by a new first floor. A rearranged living space has large openings to access the garden. The matt-black charred timber cladding and black tin roof mimics local agricultural forms while complementing a neighbouring Grade II-listed church. 

Location East Harptree, Somerset | Completion March 2019 | Gross internal floor area 170m2Client Private | Photography Kris Eley

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

 

 

Outpost

Albion Terrace

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£139,490

The project is a single-storey extension to a Victorian terraced house, dating from the 1840s, in the Albion Square Conservation Area in Haggerston. 

It further extends the ground-floor space of the house’s existing two-storey extension out to the side and back, with a new kitchen laid out along one wall.

The new extension’s roof is made up of four small pitched roofs, each with narrow west-facing rooflights, which provide an expressive internal ceiling profile. The rooflights animate the space, tracking the movement of the afternoon sun, while not leading to excessive heat gain. The new roofs and rear elevation are clad in a pre-weathered standing seam zinc, with bespoke solid Douglas fir glazed door and window set into this.

The project includes a heat source pump system, grey-water harvesting and sheep wool insulation. 

Location London E8 | Completion September 2019 | Gross internal floor area 105m2Client Private | Photography French & Tye

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

 

 

Russell Jones

1 Windsor Road

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£165,000

This small residential project was built on a 70m2 plot behind what was a beer-seller’s premises, containing a single-storey brick outbuilding and yard, once used for storing beer barrels. The brief was to convert this to residential use without compromising the adjacent property. 

The new two-level, timber house sits within the original outbuilding’s footprint, using existing foundations and rising above the retained brick envelope. Its form loosely follows the profile of its predecessor, but is distinguished by its materials: new external walls and roof clad in corrugated cellulose sheets, dipped in bitumen. The timber-lined living spaces orientate southwards to the yard, which forms both entrance and private courtyard, while angled timber louvres shield bedroom privacy.

The project was built using off-the-shelf materials from local timber yards and builders’ merchants. All structural timber, soffits, internal walls, cabinetry and doors were sawn and fabricated on site. 

Location London N17 | Completion April 2019 | Gross internal floor area 58m2Client Private | Photography Rory Gardiner

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

 

 

Cass School of Architecture 

Cass Studio 

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£10,000

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 30m2Client 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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£35,000 

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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£45,400

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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£220,000 

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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£65,000

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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£90,000

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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£69,000

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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£75,000

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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£42,000

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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£5,000

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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