Sometimes projects start as sketches – and then, fairly rapidly become real – while still managing to look like those first initial ideas. We were asked by Gruff to help develop a scheme for a temporary pavilion outside some railway arches in Bermondsey. The arches and yard outside were operated by Maverick Projects who needed extra space and the ability to operate the arches as an all weather venue. The structural response needed to be economic, expressive and easy to fabricate whilst maximising the usable outside area. Working from the first sketching session with Gruff we built physical and computer models and quickly arrived at an agreed scheme using timber and scaffolding tubes to form a module of diagonal trusses. Though recently completed, it has already accommodated many events, and achieved everything our client had hoped for, and had been encapsulated in those first sketches.
Photo credit – Ben Blossom
Status : complete
Most of our projects are episodes within ongoing relationships with architects and clients. This allows us to explore and develop ideas and materials from project to project. This project involved the addition of a new floor level to an existing Victorian house, forming a new mansard with a slender exposed Douglas Fir roof structure. Linking the new level back to the existing house is a CNC cut plywood staircase, conceived as a prefabricated jigsaw of interlocking pieces. To make this buildable we made a scale model which became central to works on site – continuously pulled apart and re-assembled it allowed us to discuss & agree with the builder how the jigsaw could be pieced together within a tight confined existing stairwell.
Photo credit - French and Tye
Architect: Oval Partnership London
We first visited this site when our client was looking to purchase what was then a closed down car repair yard tightly hemmed in on several sides by party walls and sitting over a network of Thames Water pipework. Step by step we worked with our client to realise this new build two storey family home set around an internal courtyard. Our starting point was to develop a viable ground works scheme able to gain approval from Thames Water and then to design a largely exposed timber and steel superstructure. Although recently finished the house already feels like a landmark in its Deptford environment. Internally the exposed Douglas Fir structure clearly demonstrates the love and intense thought which went into every aspect of the making of this house.
Architect: Takero Shimazaki Architecture
When we were first approached, this project appeared barely feasible - our client wanted to develop a tiny backlands site to accommodate a partly subterranean, partly above ground exposed concrete house. The site was located almost next to a railway embankment, bounded by party walls and a road and sat immediately above major Thames Water pipework. Working closely with geotechnical consultants we developed a proposal for the excavation works which managed to satisfy Thames Water that any impact to their pipework would be minimal - and was buildable . Construction of the substructure remained a real challenge on this constrained site – with a further challenge that the internal finishes surfaces were entirely fair faced in-situ concrete. Slowly, through a sequence of testing, sampling and collaboration with the builder and architect we agreed specifications for the exposed concrete which allowed a unique and crafted house to be built in a location where nothing had seemed possible.
Wimbledon Park Primary School
Architect: Lacey & Saltykov
Status : planning
This project for a new sculptural entrance canopy for a south London primary school became an exploration in geometry. To help understand and develop the design we progressed a series of small scale models to define the overall shape and then a set of larger scale models to look at how the overall sculpture could be split into a repeating set of overlapping panels. Our models became vital working tools to help us explore with the architect what geometry achieved both the architectural and structural requirements of the client’s brief.
These extensions to an ordinary end of terrace two storey post war house land like the back of a partly hidden dinosaur in South London. Despite the other-wordly appearance of its triangular roofscape we needed to break the structure down into something easily communicated and built. Helped by a series of exploded axonometric drawings we were able to separate out the complexities into a series of simple elements - enabling the structure to remain surprisingly low key with a typically timber framed structure enclosing onto a series of existing perimeter boundary walls.
model credit - Archmongers
Architect: Catja De Haas & Takero Shimazaki Architecture
Status : on site
Starting from the architect’s initial sketches for a new house which would become overgrown by nature and eventually almost disappear back into its delicate south coast environment we prepared a series of initial structural options. To achieve the mix of small, domestic and larger open span spaces we developed a structural scheme which used prefabricated cross laminated timber panels in conjunction with slender steel support pilotis. The finished building has an inherent structural materiality with its exposed timber wall and ceiling panels and a delicate perimeter steelwork allowing the building to open out to the outside.
This project allowed a 1960s 3 storey terraced house to gain an extra level by connecting it into a redundant garage space below. To maximise the headroom in the new lower level we replaced the existing ground floor structure with a new ultra-thin build-up incorporating a large sculptural opening to accommodate the new internal stair. The new staircase floats above the lower ground floor level - being suspended from the perforated steel balustrade panels and structural handrails. A new timber stair was also formed up to first floor level incorporating a series of interconnected voids and views to bring the new spaces together.
Photo credit - French and Tye
Architect: Beasley Dickson Architects
This tiny single storey roof extension sits like a copper clad jewel box at the back of the Victorian terraces of Highbury. Despite its small size the project was complex – hardly any site access, the floors below being in separate ownership and a fully glazed end elevation. The structure was kept as a simple timber stud framework stiffened at the open end by a concealed steel portal which both restrained the timberwork and allows the end glazing to be minimally supported, maximising the views out to the trees beyond.
Although a small project, and one of our earliest, this refurbishment remains one of our most loved projects. The refurbishment changed a relatively ordinary 3 storey 1960s terraced house into somewhere very special with a series of joyful and materially honest structural interventions. At the rear the house was extended with an exposed steel and timber trussed roof whilst a new steel plate suspended staircase punches through from above to link the ground and first floor. At the top level a client assembled CNC plywood interlocking staircase accesses the previously unused roof space.
Photo credit - French and Tye
AJ small projects award – 2016
NLA Don’t Move improve award shortlist – 2016
Architect: Studio Octopi
The refurbishment of a disused and overgrown amphitheatre for Bradfield College remains one of our most unique projects. For several years we had helped architects Studio Octopi develop feasibility proposals to bring the amphitheatre - built in the 1890s in an old chalk pit - back to life as an accessible modern performing space. A series of interventions, including a dramatic cantilever viewing platform, a new timber framed backstage building and new stairs transformed a space which had become un-usable, enabling it to regain it’s historic centrality to the life of the school.