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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
The last project we featured by Undercurrent Architects was a pavilion in Australia with a roof that resembles fallen leaves.
Other Corten steel buildings we've published include a sports centre in Portugal and a facilities building for London’s amateur football leagues.
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.
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.
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.
Archway Studios, London, UK
Year: 2010 – 2012
Architect: Undercurrent Architects
- Project Architect: Didier Ryan
- Assistant: Alessandra Giannotti
Engineer: Eckersley O'Callaghan Engineers