Queen's Park, London
2018 - 2020
The Sponge is a reimagined traditional Victorian terrace. The name is inspired by the deliberate design intention of puncturing the house as much as possible with windows, skylights and glass, allowing natural daylight to penetrate deep within.
"We chose Davide unhesitatingly to be our architect after he described a vision utterly different to other Victorian conversions in Queens Park, melding cultural influences, sustainability concerns and lifestyle ‘needs’ with his design. We particularly love the angled polished plaster walls, allowing light and shadows to magically change the mood in the house from day to evening, different on each level, creating literally our dream space."
This project is an experiment on a shift of scale: from a house composed of floors to a narrative whole. Rather than stacking uses on separate floors as almost separate parts of the house, uses are imagined as more flexible throughout floors. The circulation areas merge into one another and the living spaces through small double-height spaces.
The scheme has extended the original dwelling into the basement, side, rear and roof of the property. This additional space has made it possible to rethink the historic circulation, preferring a more fluid layout to achieve an exciting experience of movement through the building. Side and rear extensions are clad in dark stained marine plywood, with dark stained hardwood window and door frames. Below ground level, walls, paving, and stairs are all clad in stacked black bricks.
Layout and main spaces:
The basement and ground floor are interconnected open-plan spaces directly related to the garden. Sliding doors, changes in levels and slatted screens have replaced partitions, doors and corridors to provide a fluid space with varying degrees of separation and privacy. Long convex joinery walls model the space at both levels, incorporating the services areas, storage and the kitchen units. A curling steel stair, encased in a slatted wooden box, gives access to the basement. The stair is enclosed into a loose wooden box that resembles an atrium, illuminated from above, and floating on a large fish tank at basement level. The stair and box are located in the middle of the ground floor, serving as both a direct connection between the two levels and light source in the layout's darkest area. The wooden box acts as a perforated screen between the front sitting room and the rear open plan kitchen and dining areas.
The circulation to the top floor covers multiple levels, with landings at every change of direction, the path extends on the ground floor and basement, through an exterior stair that connects to the garden and back into the ground floor.
The project's original concept was the connection of the building to the sky through three new volumes. The entrance, stairs and landings on the top floors have been designed to achieve a triple-height box. A second box encases the stair to the basement: slatted wooden screens covered by a frosted glass roof (as prescribed by the Council). The rear extension also takes the form of a top-lit wooden box, attracting inside every possible ray of light, while remaining consistent with the project's language. Each of these areas functions as an internal greenhouse, enhancing the internal tranquillity with natural greenery.
The home's design inspiration has come from the clients' interests and cultural heritage, resulting in an in-depth investigation of eastern and southern Asian architecture and its influence on contemporary architecture. The design needed a vital clarity of contrast between planes and volumes to achieve this particular feel to the interior. The interior plasters were tested, finally selecting off-the-shelf plaster to seal and leave exposed, in contrast to the dark stained oak floor finish and matching joinery.
We were approached by the clients through an previous client, who we had become friends with, as often happens. The couple had recently bought a beautiful Victorian house close to Queen’s Park, North west london and were looking for someone to develop their project together. The property had been used for several years as two separate flats, and then joined again, although all the permissions were not in place, separate sets of meters remained and the layouts were completely dysfunctional: a sink appeared every now and then, the only access to the garden was through a tiny side door.; the structure also felt -unsteady- sometimes sloping. The brief was very broad: to extend the property into the basement, as well as on the ground floor, where they wanted to replace an existing extension and infill the wide side garden; a complete refurbish of the first floor, a new loft conversion with a rear dormer. They had prepared a brief document and selected three architects to prepare a presentation describing how we would approach the project. Oir main focus has been to understand the clients’ needs beyond the brief: not solutions, but questions. We kept the communication open and realised that our ideas about what constitutes quality of life aligned: natural light, relationship to the garden, airy and deep spaces with complexity and narrative. Our pitch developed organically from these observations and our work on previous projects (many inbuilt): we decided a strategy based on light boxes, rooms or fragments of rooms connected to the outside and having the function of bringing light through the building, assembled around a large open space on the ground floor. One box would be the entrance, with double heights and a roof light at the very top, the second was a in the middle of the ground floor, bringing light down to the basement, the third would be a new glazed rear extension.