Dezeen Magazine

"It's about trying to grab light and views where you can" - Riches and Mikhail on Church Walk

In this movie by producers Living Projects, architects David Mikhail and Annalie Riches explain how their Church Walk housing project created four compact but light and airy homes on the small awkward site of a former junkyard in north London.

Mikhail and Riches live in the Church Walk scheme they designed and developed themselves, which has been shortlisted for this year's RIBA Stirling Prize and recently triumphed at the Housing Design Awards.

The terraced brick building contains three houses spilt over different levels and one apartment, each with access to outdoor space.

In the movie, Mikhail talks about the issues of building on a tight plot: "The proximity of the site to our neighbours meant that the building stepped down to be only two metres high."

He also explains how the zig-zagging geometry of the plan prevents overlooking from a nearby building that sits at a 45-degree angle to the site.

Riches discusses how they maximised the amount of accommodation on the small area of land by varying ceiling heights. "Whilst there are some low spaces where you sit down like living rooms and bedrooms, those are contrasted with having spaces like kitchens and dining rooms with very tall ceilings."

"The scheme is about trying to grab light and views where you can find them," she adds. "Small tight sites are where architects can really add value because we do have the skills to make the most of whatever assets are there. I don't see any reason why the principles here - the use of light, building up to the street edge - couldn't apply to lots of brownfield sites."

The homes were built on a brownfield site in Stoke Newington, the north London neighbourhood where Dezeen's office is based - read more about the project in our previous story.

In other recent architecture movies we've published, take a tour of Zaha Hadid's Galaxy Soho complex in Beijing and listen to Richard Rogers' thoughts on his design for the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Living Projects has also produced movies about the hexagonal Canada Water Library by CZWG and Maggie's Nottingham cancer care centre by the same architects.

See more architecture movies »