Archway Studios by
Undercurrent Architects


A home and studio for a photographer are contained inside this Corten steel bunker that Undercurrent Architects has squeezed beside and beneath the arch of a railway viaduct in south London.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

The brick viaduct is typical of the nineteenth century railway architecture that runs through the city's neighbourhoods and project architect Didier Ryan explained how they wanted to come up with new uses for the vacant spaces under and around them. "Pocket sites are full of potential," he said.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

Undercurrent Architects designed Archway Studios as an architectural prototype for other similar sites and the building contains living and working spaces that are acoustically protected from the noises of trains rattling by during the day.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

The Corten steel cladding gives the building its hard shell-like exterior, but light penetrates the interior through sideways-facing windows and a long skylight at the front.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

"The most challenging problem was how to amplify a keyhole site and bring light deep into the railway arch," said the architect. He explained how they "focused light from all directions" into the deep recesses of the arched structure.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

In front of the arch, the building has three storeys that accommodate bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room, while beneath is a workspace with a five-metre-high vaulted ceiling.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

"This dual-use building is the first of its kind, but it could be a model for others in the micro-regeneration of London's arches and viaducts," added Ryan.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

The last project we featured by Undercurrent Architects was a pavilion in Australia with a roof that resembles fallen leaves.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

Other Corten steel buildings we've published include a sports centre in Portugal and a facilities building for London’s amateur football leagues.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

See all our stories about Corten steel »
See more studios for artists, designers and creatives »

Photography is by Candice Lake.

Here's some more information from Undercurrent Architects:

Archway Studios is a prototype live-workspace built in and around a 19thC rail viaduct. The project works with the constraints of an inner-city, industrial site next to a train line, and the challenges of a fortified design that engages its surroundings.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

Above: axonometric diagram

London is crossed by Victorian viaducts. These structures dominate and divide neighbourhoods, creating corridors of conflict, compounded by industrial use of the viaduct arches. Due to de-industrialisation there is an abundance of centrally located, vacant ‘brownfield’ arch spaces. Adapting these to new uses or to social or creative applications is critical to inner-city communities.

Archway Studios occupies part of the viaduct, a vaulted workshop linked to an atrium with residential alcoves. The design works with the contrast between the compressed, cavernous qualities of the arch & the slender, ecclesial spaces of the atrium & alcoves.

The site is severely constrained by its narrow plot and limited access to light, aspect and views. The building subverts its tight site conditions, encapsulating light and lofty interiors that offer release in spite of constraint.

A ring of slender steel foils mould the narrow site, forming a protective acoustic shell cupped around interior spaces. Daylight filters into the building through slits in the segmented foils, acting to scoop light into the deep recesses of the arch.

The site presented unique challenges relating to vibration and noise proofing. To address these, the building is isolated and suspended on a rubber foundation with an independent casing lining the arch. Dense steel walls form a ‘stressed skin’ husk carrying the building loads, with a sandwich of multilayered acoustic blanketing and dampening technologies.

Archway Studios by Undercurrent Architects

Above: floor plans and roof plan

The building shell is made from weathered and worn materials that blend into the industrial environment. This provides privacy and introspection while maintaining highly open connections with the surroundings. The facade maximises a slim southerly aspect, capturing skyviews & bringing distant tree foliage to the foreground.

The building's unique design and appearance helps it to stand out even when dwarfed by inner-city neighbours. As one of 10,000 arches that dissect neighbourhoods across London, it is a model that can be adapted for broad community benefit and regeneration.

Project Details:
Archway Studios, London, UK
Area: Southwark
Year: 2010 – 2012

Architect: Undercurrent Architects
- Project Architect: Didier Ryan
- Assistant: Alessandra Giannotti
Engineer: Eckersley O'Callaghan Engineers

  • SUPERB. Excellent work. The site juxtapositions, the materials, the curves.

  • Wow! This has to be one of the most interesting projects you’ve featured on here. I’d love to have seen Kevin McCloud’s take on this!

  • Donkey

    Looks amazing! I’m curious about the “acoustically protected from the noises of trains rattling by” – can the trains be heard at all?

    Also, how has damp/rainwater which usually appear under these arches been dealt with? The bridge wasn’t build to be weathertight.

    The rubber foundations sound intriguing. Some diagrams/cross sections of how the new building’s materials sit within the existing bridge would be great (if it’s not giving away all the secrets).

    • Sikweng Foo

      I am interested in these questions as well.

  • Zed

    At last some passion in British architecture, hopefully the first sign of a new generation of talented designers. Really liked the contrast between fleshy envelope and weightless/material-less interiors, it has been a long time since plasterboard looked so good. Well done and carry on!

  • mavii

    This is seriously cool. Love it!

  • Lulu


  • Kiki

    The ladder is confusing in the floor plan.

    • ADC

      They made it look like there was a flight of stairs going to it in order to pass code most likely. Then it mysteriously disappeared once construction was underway!