Old Workshop by
Jack Woolley


Slideshow: people strolling by this brick wall in London might miss the disguised entrance to a secret office and home.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

The wall appears to merely bridge the gap between two existing properties, but is in fact a screen across the entire facade of a building designed by British architect Jack Woolley.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

Located on the site of a former carpenter’s workshop, Old Workshop has two storeys, one of which is completely submerged underground.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

An office and meeting room occupy the ground floor level, while the basement contains a residence that is naturally lit through a row of walk-on skylights.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

Pine salvaged from the former workshop roof was used to construct cabinets in the kitchen.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

If you're intrigued by secret entrances, check out our story about a disguised passageway concealed behind a mirror.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

Photography is by David Grandorge, apart from where otherwise stated.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

The text below is from Jack Woolley:

Old Workshop

A project to rehabilitate a derelict carpenter’s workshop which had been used to make walking sticks by doubling its size and converting it to live/work.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

The original workshop was built behind a London stock brick wall that linked the neighbouring terraces.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

This wall and the gap above it that framed a landscape of tree canopies were important to the integrity of the streetscape and a decision was taken to preserve them.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

This led to a bespoke door design piercing the wall to form a new entrance – integrated into the brickwork but visible only as a rectangular witness line.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

To increase the habitable volume, a new basement level with generous ceiling heights was inserted under the original, but offset horizontally to allow daylight to penetrate through walk on roof lights running along its length.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

Materials salvaged from the derelict structure were used to restore the original building with small interventions to accommodate changed requirements of day lighting, thermal efficiency and circulation.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

Where possible finishes were integrated into the structure – for example, the floor screed was polished, eliminating the need for a secondary finish.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

Pitch pine boards salvaged from the roof were dried out, lightly planed and used to make kitchen units.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

To extend the useful life of the building, it had to function in a variety of live:work usage ratios as needs changed.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

The way the spaces could be used was planned and services were provided to enable different combinations to be adopted easily.

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

Architect: Jack Woolley
Structural Engineer: C&R Design

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

Site address: Old Workshop, Almorah Road, London N1 3EN
Timetable: riba stages a-d 12/08 - 05/09, riba stages e-h 05/09 – 02/10, riba stages j-k 03/10 – 06/11

Old Workshop by Jack Woolley

  • bill

    can we have another 5 shots of the front brick door please. i dont think there is enough

    • Steph

      Yes, but with the door open… just to see the entrance through the wall.

  • Harvey

    Well done Jack! I really enjoyed how you resolved the spaces.

  • Redfern

    I am not sure I would like to somewhere where my only view would be people's legs and the soles of their shoes. This is nicely done, but the fundamentals have been missed out I think. It would have been great if the section had been manipulated to create some really good living spaces. Projects on dezeen should have depth. This shows a single gimmick, the brick door.

    • felix

      yeah be careful not to wear a skirt when visiting this house

      i expect the negatives of the project are a result of burdensome planning requirements

    • bill

      Nah, I think sectional manipulation is too easy … Would have completely chewed up the usable ground floor. I like the fact that this is a straight forward, pragmatic stacking of two floors. The skylights look like they work fine. I get a bit sick of architecture which is overly willful.

      • Redfern

        But would you like to live here for a long time Bill? Spaces like this without a proper outlook can be difficult and depressing to live in. Do you really think that this is an example of good architecture? I am sure the architect had to deal with difficult planning issues and I am not advocating any overly wilful architecture, but I do think it would be good to work the layout/section more to end up with a more balanced and pleasant place to work and live.

    • You Londoners are miseries! Nice building on a very tight site. OK the door is a gimmick

  • mikeb

    How is that DDA compliant in any way for a commercial entrance?

    • anon

      On the plan, there is a a second entrance.

  • andrevibollok

    Ein kleiner Schritt im Kampf gegen die Reizüberflutung – Danke!

  • lewis

    I'm not sure what to think about the home itself, but the door I like, quintessentially London.

  • mark

    No photo of the brick wall door open = Fail.

  • Well done Jack!

    It good to see that a sense of quirkiness can sing through in such a sophisticated project.

    This door will be copied.

  • Claire

    This project is one door really……. isn't it?

  • john chamberlain

    Arn´t all of you missing the point!

    The project is a wall extension……….and the planners are taunted by the invisible door………..the cleverness of the solution is not a substitute for a wholesome and healthy way of being, however varied the space experience below ground.
    Its a subversive kick up the arse for the planning department who obviously love the idea of burying anything new out of sight. Saves them complaining about modernism, and refusing most new sfuff architects design by burying it in a hole!

    After the first smile the reality of the underground provokes sadness. It really is a celebration of the power of the planners in the UK…….another brick in the wall for the system. See Stirling & Gowans leicester Engineering Faculty with its tiled door ……….in the 60's 50 years ago.

  • Poor postman is going to have a nightmare finding that 'invisible' door