Triangular roof lights step up the side of this terrace of houses built on a former industrial site in north London.
"Roofs have been shaved and angled to avoid injuring the light and amenity to the rear, and in particular the ground floor windows of the closest neighbours," Mikhail told Dezeen.
Siberian larch clads the top storey of each unit and wraps around to cover the back of the building, while the facade along the street is predominantly brick.
A two-storey residence occupies the two floors at the south end of the scheme, while another sits above a ground floor flat to the north and a three-storey property is sandwiched in the middle.
The stepped volume creates balconies on each level and a series of gardens at the back of the building can be accessed from any of the ground-floor homes.
Douglas fir is used for skirting, panelling and flooring inside the house.
External balustrades and the sliding front doors are made from aluminium mesh coated in anodised bronze, the same finish applied to the windows.
The architects ran into problems when they found a well hidden on site. "We discovered an absolutely beautiful brick-lined well after we started digging," explained Mikhail.
"We would have glazed it over and made it visible, but unfortunately it sat directly between 151A and 151B. Instead, we bridged over it in reinforced concrete but not before inserting an aluminum rectangular hollow section down into the well and directly between the party walls. It's now visible as a metal slot in the brickwork at about 600mm off the pavement - a secret wishing well!" he continued.
Church Walk is named after the street it is located on, which is one of oldest streets in Stoke Newington, north London, just a stone's throw from Dezeen's offices.
David Mikhail Architects won the New London Architecture's Don't Move, Improve! competition with a project that extended a London terraced house by just one metre.
Photography is by Tim Crocker.
David Mikhail Architects sent us the information below:
Architects David Mikhail and Annalie Riches have just completed their own development in North London, and comprises two houses and two apartments on a tight urban site. The project is a detailed response to themes of density, overlooking and overshadowing, problems often found in urban housing.
Originally a stroll between the churches of Clissold Park and Newington green, Church Walk is now truncated by the Stoke Newington School, and ends abruptly at the schools service entrance. But along the way, up from Newington Green, it is hugely varied, with some notable one-off houses, semi industrial buildings, a much-tendered communal allotment, 19th century flats and post war deck access housing.
The architects purchased the site at auction, which had a planning permission for two flats and a bungalow, both designed and financed the scheme, and are now living in one of the 4 units. The site is approximately 21m x 11m and roughly rectangular. Significantly overlooked at the rear, it is also overshadowed for much of the afternoon. At the southwest end, the site boundary comes to within 2 meters of neighbour’s living room windows. In this very challenging context, the scheme sought to carve out memorable housing at a high density, whilst managing to remain neighbourly and to enhance the street.
Above: site before development
Within the four units, various types of accommodation are provided. A two-storey house entered via a small private courtyard sits at the southern end. In the middle of the terrace is a house over three floors with bedrooms on the ground floor, living rooms on the first floor and a study with roof terrace on the second floor. At the northern end is a one bedroom flat with a rear garden, and above it a four-storey apartment. Each property has its own entrance from the street.
Above: site location plan
The building form has been closely calibrated using the BRE Guide to Sunlight and Daylight. Roofs have been shaved and angled to avoid injuring the light and amenity to the rear, and in particular the ground floor windows of the closest neighbours.
Above: ground floor plan - click for larger image
A ‘concertina’ arrangement of angled walls to the back means that no windows overlook or are overlooked by the wall of neighbouring windows (8-12 Clissold Road), since this building is at 45 degrees to Church Walk. Along the street, south facing terraces and wildflower garden roofs step up in a ziggurat form to give an animated and unexpectedly verdant streetscape. Living rooms, roof terraces and bedrooms address the street, providing much needed natural surveillance and security to an area of Church Walk that had witnessed consistent anti-social behaviour.
Above: first floor plan - click for larger image
Materials are intentionally taken from a limited palette, with white oiled Siberian larch, arranged board over board giving a ‘corduroy’ effect, a light buff coloured brick set in a flush white lime mortar giving an homogenous ‘cast’ feel to the street facade, recalling the ubiquitous London stock brickwork of Georgian London, and a large gauge expanded aluminum mesh, finished like the windows in anodized bronze; individually robust materials, but which together with the wildflower roofs, seek to achieve a new delicacy and lightness.
Above: second floor plan - click for larger image
At the rear, brick gives way to a much softer and lighter feel, with whitened Siberian Larch taken right down to low brick plinth walls. As well as giving good levels of reflected light to the Clissold Road flats, it was also chosen over the original zinc for both its acoustic and perceptual softness. Triangular roof lights at ground level use opaque white glass to maintain privacy from the potential gaze of the flats whilst providing good light levels, and dramatic interiors. The raked slopes of these ground floor roof lights are calibrated to minimise any possible sense of bulk to each of the 151 Church Walk neighbours. Since the photographs were taken, the gardens have been planted and bespoke hazel wood hurdles have been suspended between the three separate gardens, giving a textured enclosure to each property.
Above: third floor plan - click for larger image
There are a variety of outdoor spaces. In addition to brick lined courtyard gardens at the rear, three 10m2 terraces orient south and provide an elevated place to enjoy the wider views back to the City of London and the best sunlight.
Above: roof plan - click for larger image
House 151A is entered via a small courtyard garden off of the street, its entrance gate the first in a series of expanded aluminium sliding gates, bin and meter store doors, and balustrades. House 151B and flat 151C have sliding mesh security screens in front of external lobbies, with glazed doors and bedroom windows behind. These coordinate with bespoke letterboxes that are key operated from inside the lobby, LED illuminated street numbers and entry phones. The front door to 151D is directly off the street, into its own staircase hall, from which you rise 4 storeys to the top floor study / bedroom and roof terrace. Whilst 151A is more horizontally arranged, 151D has a vertical emphasis. It also enjoys a north facing roof terrace at the living floor level, which in the summer gets end of day sun.
Internally the theme of whitened wood and muted shades continues. Douglas fir, either white oiled (joinery) or soaped with a white lye stain (floors) is used throughout. Instead of the usual shadow-gaps and minimal detailing, here a more robust, traditional architectural language is used, which was considered more suitable for a development; architraves, lined window reveals and internal sills, tall skirting boards and solid wide plank floors, staircases and joinery; one species of wood, and all prepared in the joinery shop of the builders, Eurobuild Contractors Limited.
Above: east elevation - click for larger image
Due to the complex section and the pressure to retain good light levels to others, many of the principle rooms on the street side have relatively low ceiling heights at 2.1m, opening onto the more generous 4.5m vaulted ceilings over kitchens and dining rooms. Even so, full height doors and generously tall skirting are designed to accentuate this lower nature. Like the brickwork, the skirting brings to mind 18/19th century housing. Each room’s skirting is a different height to negotiate the particular features or connections of a room. For example in the living rooms they are at their most luxurious, coordinating with the 425mm high Douglas fir window seat sills. In bedrooms they line with thresholds to roof terraces, at 280mm.
Above: west elevation - click for larger image
At the heart of each of the three larger dwellings is a double height kitchen / dining room. In 151B and D, these identical spaces are lent drama by Douglas Fir staircases sitting over integrated kitchen storage going up to the top floor room, with full height windows looking northeast, and with the spectacular triangular roof lights which are visible from the street, sitting directly over the kitchen. Similar themes can be seen in the layout of 151A. Construction is of simple load bearing concrete block and timber floors and roofs with the minimum use of steel beams for the wider spans.
Above: long section - click for larger image
It has low temperature water under floor heating, using condensing gas boilers. This combined with whole house ventilation with heat recovery and good levels of airtightness (3m3) ensure both low fuel bills and a well-tempered internal environment winter and summer. Almost all the lighting is LED. Bricks in lime mortar will be re-usable in the future. The wildflower roofs help to mitigate the loss of insect and plant life that was found when the site was abandoned.
Given the context this site could have resulted in an introspective solution. Instead David Mikhail and Annalie Riches have achieved something far richer, inside and out. With its multiple levels, its terracing and its stepped garden roofs, this housing terrace manages to engage with its location in a way that makes a significant contribution to this part of the London.