Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Chalgrove in Harrow on Hill, HA1

Some of our work relates to Victorian terraced housing, and in it’s standard form of generous bay sash window and panelled door approached by a simple path, these very unremarkable, yet agreeable and decent family houses have come to typify many swathes of London’s suburbia, from Hackney in the north to Balham in the south and Kensal in the west. At the time of construction some builders or developers embellished or romanticised what has since become very standardised London housing stock with the notion of more picturesque settings – distinctively English and rural as you could achieve a day of two’s train journey from 19th Century London: “Clovelly” (Devon), “Sherborne” (Dorset), “Chalgrove” (Oxon) inscribed over the porch entrance.

So when we received an enquiry from a client with regard to a project named “Chalgrove” in Harrow there was little expectation beyond the norm.

Chalgrove, many moons ago

Far from a being a standard 19th Century house “Chalgrove”, at the lower slopes of Grove Hill and Peterborough Road is a lovely 2-storey Arts & Craft house constructed in red brick English bond with rendered elevation at 1st Floor level. The roof is a plain tile roof. It was built by Arnold Mitchell, architect in 1893 for Adolf Hildesheim and the entrance door, windows and elevations are described in The Builder of 1893 & The Architect 1895:

'Front elevation: The door of small-pane glazing over 3 panels in reveal, round archway, and bracketed, bowels, canopy. Small window to right with apron panel, and canted bay window of 1, 3, 1 lights and with dentilled eaves to left. High wooden cornice broken by tall central stair window of 2 x 3 lights and with 2 cross-windows to either side. Modillioned eaves cornice. Two segmental-arched 2-light dormers. Raised verges with coping. Corniced end stacks.

Rear elevation: canted bay window with central double door, small window to right, 3-light window to left; eaves lower than at front, rising above the lst-floor windows of 3 and 4 lights. Interior not inspected.'

Chalgrove in 2010, view from the road at the most south-eastern corner of
the Roxborough Park and The Grove Conservation Area

Note the perimeter wall and the fence. The fence was erected without Listed Building Consent (LBC) and when our Client bought the house at auction he was unaware that they would need to be removed and a new fence designed in accordance to the sensitivities of grade II listing. Studio Idealyc have been successful in achieving LBC for our Client.

Chalgrove in context

We like the juncture of timber and brick, each crafted with sensibility and balance to create a very agreeable form.

Chalgrove Porch designed to a beautiful curve

We also like the majestic chimney stacks of English Bond, stretching tall into the sky. Once a former village, Harrow is typical of other former London villages that have since become engulfed in the metropolitan sprawl. The fence and need for greater privacy is simply a product of the times, and the original context is no more.

Chalgrove; view of chimney elevation showing English Bond

Reposessed by a bank, Chalgrove was later sold at auction to our Client who was unaware of its listed status which also encompasses the 18th Century brick wall that curtails the property. The wall will need to be preserved or restored using sensitive materials and processes, notably lime mortar. Any new features like fencing or gates will require sensitive design before Listed Building Consent is granted.

Chalgrove in 2009, boarded up and awaiting a new occupier

As much as we wanted to work on the house, it was outside the house however that our client requested our services, and he didn’t mean digging over the garden! The issue instead concerned two perimeter walls of redbrick construction supported by buttresses dating from the 18th Century. With some of the brickwork at risk of falling apart it was a matter of urgency that work commenced to prevent further subsidence and decay. Furthermore, Chalgrove falls within the Roxborough Park and The Grove Conservation Area of special architectural and historic interest, and is considered one of a few most architecturally important, elegant and distinctive Arts & Crafts houses in Harrow, and as such the house and garden walls are listed grade II.

Indicative Plan of the Roxborough Park and The Grove Conservation Area

Landed with the role of submitting a planning application for new gates sensitive to a 19th Century style and a design of fence to sit on top of the bow- profiled wall so as not to not distract too heavily from the picturesque form of the wall - yet allow the occupier a little privacy - our thoughts reverted to the poetic nature of the individual bricks and their collective form as they withstand the urban trajectory of pollution, noise and visual intrusion encroaching this corner of London.

Studio Idealyc's earlier study of the fence on the front facade

As we surveyed and measured, examined and sketched the wall and her many variable textures, hues and formations, we considered the beauty that lies within the construction process of bricks from yesteryear:

Bricks were made from clay that had been puddled (squeezed and blended) until it was smooth and impurities had been removed. Other materials were mixed in, such as chalk or ash, and once moulded could be placed in sand when still damp. Shaping could be done with a mould, by extrusion through a wire mesh, or by carving.

The bricks were then baked in a clamp or kiln. A clamp is a stack of dried bricks, with faggots of brushwood inside, and coated with clay. The Hoffman kiln was introduced in 1858; this made continuous production possible and the bricks were uniform in shape and strength.

The inclusion of a wire mesh and other geometric means of moulding bricks gave way to more abstract thinking. We were reminded of John Hejduk, Architect who played with the process of square grids and other geometric devices within diagonal containers. He set these geometries against with an occasional curving wall.

Chalgrove, now

Letter received by our Client in acknowledgment of our work on Chalgrove


With thanks to Ms. Lucy Haile, Conservation Officer from London Borough of Harrow who we are indebted to for her continuous help and advice during and after the LBC was granted. Her knowledge and kindness is much appreciated.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Horns Road, IG2

Recently we were telephoned by the proprietor of a former petrol station at Horns Road in Barkingside, East London who after a few years using this property acting as a Sue Generous, has decided to close it down and rented to a company who runs several hand car wash garages locally.

The reason of the call was to seeking advice to how best to convert the former kiosk into a little eatery selling sandwiches, wraps, and hot baguettes. His equivalent to American restaurant giant ‘Subway’!

Not to miss out on an excuse to stretch our legs and take the car for a drive after a period off the road due to a spell in our mechanic’s garage we decided to whizz along the A12 eastbound. At the stretch known as Eastern Avenue - where the Central Line crosses the A12 near Newbury Park Underground Station - we turned off onto Horn Road. The fast pace of the dual carriageway giving way to relatively subdued road acting as a trajectory to a swathe of suburbia linking the A12 with Barkingside.

Horn Road former petrol filling station now used as a hand-car washing complete with vacant kiosk

Visiting the site at twilight we were struck by how urban picturesque it felt. Secured by the calming nature of the deep blue sky coupled with the quietly efficient pace of car wash-men going about their business, we waited silently in the car. Simply observing and thinking how calm the scene. The seclusion and reassurance of the light within the kiosk; the clean lines of this unremarkable structure hinting at the aesthetics represented in the American filling stations of artist Ed Ruscha.

Ed Ruscha, Standard Station, 1962

Back at the office we discussed how the kiosk might be adapted. We then returned the telephone call to the client to discuss the project brief. Once we were formally appointed, we visited the property the following day for a second time and undertook a full measured survey.

With the intentions of submitting a Planning Application for a Change of Use to London Borough of Redbridge, Studio Idealyc was instructed to prepare a set of nominal architectural drawings illustrating the proposal.
Studio Idealyc's front elevation of the empty kiosk

It transpires the Client wishes to retain the small building to the rear of the kiosk for his car wash people to sit and wait for customers. In other words the size of the project is guided by the existing. Ideas varied from an ice cream parlour to soup kitchen to sandwich shop.

Plan of the property (Area 14.5 sq.m)

Based on the principles of practicality - and thinking that nobody would really want to spend anytime there beyond the time it takes to wash their car - we thought that a sandwich shop might perhaps be the most sensible. Have you ever attempted driving whilst devouring an ice cream or eating soup? A sandwich is surely the better option.

The view from beneath the canopy of the former petrol filling station

However in retrospect, the work of Ed Rusha leads us on to the paintings of Edward Hopper and the lonely spaces these represent. Could the romanticism of Hopper be a good enough reason to pause and imagine the landscape of Barkingside as a Hopper painting, and the little kiosk serving as a destination in its own right?
by Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A window on the world in Georgina Road, NW1

Last Sunday we had the unfortunate event of joining some Spanish friends who wanted to go to Camden Town. Not that being with my friends was unfortunate, but Camden is a force to be reckoned with. On exiting Camden Town one is confronted with exhausting pedestrian foot traffic versus rumbling vehicles. Away from the main thoroughfares leading down to Euston and King’s Cross or up to Holloway or Kentish Town where seemingly endless retailers rub shoulders with fragments of housing - a clue to the residential areas that lie behind the commercial landscape – there is a sense of a quieter areas and the Camden takes on a completely different character.

We have a project just across the road from the Camden Town Tube Station – away from the main thoroughfare – which we visited last week. Not somewhere we would have considered desirable, off the beaten track Camden is full of suprises! The house is a delightful late 18th /early 19th century terraced stucco house formerly owned by London Borough of Camden. Like many neighbouring houses the property is now under private ownership. Putting aside the debates about councils selling off their housing stock and the subsequent shortage of affordable housing - the fact that the house is now subdivided into two flats is typical of the decadency in many parts of London, with Camden by no means an exception.

Georgina Road is typical of houses of this period. Elegant features in the form of wrought iron railings
and sash windows stand the test of time when behind the facade the houses are subdivided into flats

Although the culture of subdivision can be good as it satisfies a market for occupiers who are unable to afford whole desirable and sought after properties, or need only a fraction of a sizable property, the process can develop into a can of worms when occupiers who think their builders are doing work by the book are instead breaking all the rules and do not comply with Building Control. These unscrupulous working methodologies tend to go unnoticed except when the owner decides to sell up a property and a solicitor is needed in the process. As a consequence the impact of unregulated development can be costly, with solicitors potentially shaving off the value of a property because of an unregulated alteration.

A case in point is at Georgina Road, where our Clients, an elderly retired couple who have been Camden residents for many decades are in the process of selling their ground floor and basement 2-bedroom flat on a Grade 2 Listed Building with the intention of moving to the country side.

One front door concealing two further front doors leading to two flats

To improve circulation the owners commissioned a builder to close up a door between the hallway and the living room and open up a new doorway between the kitchen and the living room. Here they inserted a marvellous double solid wood antique door.

At the same time the existing door between the hallway and the kitchen was replaced with a beautiful Monastic glazed door with fine detailing.

Isometric view of the house showing ground floor flat

However neither the double doors between the kitchen and living room and the monastic new door between the hallway and kitchen were fire rated 30 minutes or comply with Building Regulations. These are requirements that the builder should have known and implemented accordingly without necessarily compromising the appearance of the antique and Monastic doors in question.

Much to our clients distraught when she came to sell up she was instructed by her buyer’s solicitor that all work undertaken must be upgraded to comply with the current Building Regulations. This included alterations to the fabric of the Monastic and antique doors that would considerably alter their appearance and strip them of their aesthetic value.

Our role is to find a solution to pass Building Control and we obtained a Certificate of Completed Works that is only issued when the District Surveyor can verify that the works in question meet satisfactory requirements. We like the role of this type of Surveyor. Though first and foremost their role is to protect us, they are willing to work with us in finding a solution to meet our client’s needs or the retention of various elements, such as the pair of antique doors.

Detail of the new door specified by us completed with 30 minutes fire rating
to replace the Monastic glazed door that was carefully removed and set aside

Our solution was to survey the property and produce a set of plans that show where new fire rated doors and a new system of smoke and fire detectors are to be installed. Whilst the panelled antique double door was retained in-situ, the Monastic glazed door didn’t comply (the antique glazing didn’t meet the minimum 30 minutes fire rating), so was removed and set aside, and replaced with a fire rated door. In addition we opened up a dialogue with the District Surveyor and offer the possibility of using an existing sash timber framed window as a means of escape from the living room. However the means of escape is to a hard surface lightwell at basement level! Better to jump and break a leg than stay inside when the smoke is all around.

Amela trying out the Building Control approved means of escape. Note the antique doors saved by us

A testimony to our client's satisfaction

Thursday, 24 March 2011

St Giles International, Southampton Row, WC1

Most work undertaken by us tends to be small domestic and commercial properties outside central London, or at the very least in zone 1 & 2, (with exception of the Hut at Spa Fields, 2006, which was our first public project) so when an opportunity arose to survey an historic mixed use building in the heart of Bloomsbury we jumped with paralytic enthusiasm.

Hailing a cab near Old Street close to our offices in Shoreditch, we made it to St Giles International English School in WC1 in no time at all. Venture northwest between Holborn and Russell Square, Southampton Row is a busy trajectory connecting some of the most notable scholarly institutions in London, from the British Museum to the southwest to University College London at the juncture between Bloomsbury and Euston. As like many busy thoroughfares, Southampton Row is graced with a variety of buildings that reflect the capital’s evolving fashion, wealth and architectural pattern during good and bad economic times.

St Giles College, Front Elevation. Note the cantilevered clock above the grand entrance

Incorporated into the façade of the building is a clock - something that is less common in new buildings - but the norm in older buildings providing a point of reference for departures and arrivals. Nowadays mobile handsets are the source of time keeping for many students it is still great to see that this handsome feature is still working.

St Giles College door surround and worms eye view of the clock

Whereas some building are Post War, plain fronted and utilitarian with simple fenestration housing budget accommodation, others are earlier building typologies, such as grand Edwardian red brick buildings embellished with stone quoins, ornate window surrounds and magnificent entrance fronts. Those travellers who have a keen eye will notice on the approach to the junction with Russell Square at the north side of the street a fine looking clock between the ornate bay windows projecting at second storey level. Directly underneath the clock a broken pediment draws the eye to the entrance of this distinguished building.

The main entrance shows a well combined mix of proportions with different scales

To the rear of the façade the Edwardian interior leads into a post war extension housing a series of rooms that are less generous in proportion than those at the front. It is not known if this is a simple extension hacked onto the rear of the Edwardian building or whether the rear part of the old building sustained damage and perhaps removed either in part or whole. Either way the location of the main stairs at the rear of the Edwardian section of the building seems odd for a building of this size, as a more centrally placed stairs would generate better circulation and impression for a building of this character.

Compared with the Edwardian Baroque of the earlier building facing Southampton Row, the later
rear Mansard extension is comprised of a utilitarian aesthetic and asymmetrically arranged services

In any case on plan the concept or notion of this building is a typology comprised of two parts with the Edwardian section plugged into its later cousin and the stairs acting as the fusion between each architectural component.
The nature of the post war extension up against the rear elevation of the existing building
has created a series of odd shaped rooms which are ideal for storage

Formerly the home to St Giles Secretarial College where young ladies learnt the etiquette and business of office PA, the EFL college St Giles International commissioned us to survey the 3rd floor for legal purposes. The survey will inform a Planning Application and subsequent works to convert floors 3 & 4 from student accommodation to new classrooms. Divided into two extremes – the old building populated with pupils attending class, and the later building entirely vacant for refurbishment – the atmosphere was strange, reverberating between hustle and bustle on one hand yet eerily quiet on the other. Although surveying the later section of the college was straightforward: unrestricted access and empty rooms, some new areas of the 3rd floor functioning as study rooms had to be surveyed as and when pupils finished their class or took a break for coffee.

St Giles College, London WC1 - Our initial Layout Plan of the 3rd Floor

The project reverts the upper floors back to their original typologies. Ladies who attended St Giles in the 1950s boarded upstairs and attended classes on the 1st and 2nd floors. However the design will be in contrast to the dark stained timber panelling and leather upholstery furnishing the Reception and Director’s suites. The new classrooms will reflect the efficiency, quality and ethos that St Giles International College is built on as well as meeting the professional aspirations of the students who will once again occupy the upper floors at tree level and gain inspiration from all that lies beneath.

Seemingly endless windows look out onto another seemingly endless fenestration.
We wonder how many windows there are in London?

At the rear of St Giles College the courtyard gives way to a budget hotel.
We like this view and enjoy the rhythm between the fenestration and grain of the masonry

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Joint Planning Application at Nightingale Road, BR1

Most of the planning applications we deal with are for single properties, however when two neighbours get on very well we can provide a joint application for them. A case in point is the following:

When our Client (residing at No. 98 Nightingale Road) approached us for first time a few months ago, they initially instructed us (Studio Idealyc) to prepare and submit drawings for a Planning Application to extend their semi detached property. The original schedule was to replace an exiting rear single storey PVC glazed conservatory for a double storey rear extension, but due to the proximity of their property with their neighbours, we rapidly explained them the negative consequences that this proposal could project in the living standards of the residents at the adjacent property (100 Nightingale Road), and subsequently, the overall reasons that could easily lead to a drastic refusal from the Planning Team at Bromley Council.

100-98 Nightingale Road, BR1 / Aerial View of Front Elevation - Cardboard model Scale 1/100

During our initial free consultation meeting we strongly advised them that in order to obtain the permission for extending their property, it was going to be convenient if a Joint Planning Application were submitted for both houses.

Following our advice, our client opened a dialogue with their neighbours, in which they clearly expressed the intentions of extending their property. This idea was approved by their next door residents, but subject to the condition that in our proposal we should incorporate a similar extension to their own property.

Front view of both properties. Our client house, 98 Nightingale Road, BR1 - to the right in colour

After a few weeks preparing the most practical solution for the resident of both houses, Studio Idealyc has just recently submitted a Joint Planning Application to London Borough of Bromley. The proposed works involve a two-storey extension to the rear of these semi-detached properties, up to the height of the eaves and not extending the existing wall plane at the rear (north) elevations, so minimizing its impact to neighbouring properties and their aspect. The purpose of the proposed extension is to provide additional kitchen and breakfast/ dining room facilities at ground floor level. At second floor level new accommodation at each address would comprise a new bedroom and bathroom. The extensions will greatly enhance the conditions for each of the occupiers.

Rear of both properties. 98 Nightingale Road - to the left, with the existing PVC conservatory

At No. 98 the family of five (two adults and three children) would have access to wider facilities and more recreational space in keeping with a family of this size (there is currently only one bathroom for four bedrooms). Meanwhile the occupiers at No. 100 Nightingale Lane, who are a young family would benefit from enhanced living accommodation suitable for a growing family. This development would encourage both families to stay at their addresses, rather than look to move to larger premises, possibly outside the London Borough of Bromley.

Proposed work illustrating a two rear storey extensions in both properties

The proposed design provides better homes for each occupier, benefiting the local community, shops and services. The proposed would also enable the children to continue at their chosen school, preventing discontinuity between school years. Our proposal would take account of the local housing stock in terms of material finishes and where possible, reuse the existing brick, minimizing the impact of sourcing from outside the locality, and meeting a sustained approach in line with local government Policy. It is hoped this approach would also reduce the number of skips and clearance vehicles as well as minimizing the number of deliveries and associated disruption and inconvenience. New windows and doors would be in keeping with the existing. We would also investigate the reuse of the existing rear doors and windows, together with existing bricks, where possible, as a commitment to reduce the impact of the works as well as promoting sustainable design.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Alders View Drive, RH19

As a young practice, we are always open to new challenges and are keen to learn from these opportunities. Here at Alders View Drive, East Grinstead, West Sussex, the detached three bedroom two storey dwelling presented an interesting challenge proposed by steep typography and the impact of this on insurance matters.

Prior to visiting the house we had envisioned East Grinstead as a town with an abundance of 15th Century Tudor architecture, as per the history and theory lessons of the past. However, from the walk from the station to the property we were slightly surprised by the lack of the above and found the house in a 1960's suburban setting.

The house in its suburban context

At street level the property presented a gently slopping footprint and a few steps down to the front door. The first question upon entering the house was to try to visualize the drainage system and how it would work in relation to this typography. We weren't surprised that the house had flooding issues. Ironically, the reason behind the flooding was in fact a burst water tank!

Upon purchase of the property, the owners found the typography of the site to be a pleasant attribute yet a concern for insurance companies who were unwilling to work with them. Unfortunately the water tank installed in the loft recently burst, destroying most of the first floor plasterboard, thermal insulation, carpet and then filtering through to the ground floor, reeking havoc in its path. An accident which nobody reported as the property was unoccupied at the time. Thanks to a phone call from the neighbor (who would later return my tax disk which I found in today's post) the burst water tank was reported and the fire brigade were called to shut down the electricity and remove the water which was rapidly nearing the height of the fuse box. We are still unaware of how long the water has remained in the house but by the stench of dampness, a few weeks seems likely.

A kind act of serenity

Within the schedule of works for assessing the property it was specified for builders to remove all the damaged plasterboard from the ceiling as well as all the carpets, destroyed by the water. Furthermore, the clients request included the removal of wall paper provided there was enough time within the three day program. In this case, due to the extent of flooding, we were surprised the walls were even standing straight, never mind the removal of wall paper! Little mechanical assistance was needed for the job after we discovered how easily our fingers could penetrate the walls.

Damage prior to our assessment

Removal of the wall paper/ removal of the paper thin walls

Due to the typographical nature of the site, the clients were unable to gain insurance and as a result are having to pay for all the damage and works themselves., an unfortunate occurrence upon recently purchasing the house. This highlights the importance of insurance regardless of current occupation or not. Luckily, the neighboring properties remain unaffected.

The timber decking looking out over the ditch

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Extension at West Beech Avenue, SS11

Always grateful to expand our client base, we are happy to and enjoy working outside of London (thanks to our trusty vehicle which gives us the opportunity to explore and expand our knowledge of our island). In fact, most of our work as a small practice originally started in the surrounding suburbs of London. Sticking to our word, we have recently been appointed for a side extension for planning purposes at a semi detached house within the borough of Basildon, Essex.
Planning the route in the office.

The two bedroom property stands in a prominent position as a corner piece on a quiet 1960's residential close and features an extensive garden (and shed) in proportion to the size of the house. The client previously resided in Central London, and relocated with his family, which is now expanding, to further afield. The side extension intends to accommodate his growing family. The client original planned for a single storey side extension, comprising a larger kitchen and living area but an increased budget has provided another storey including a walk- in- wardrobe and play room.

The property in suburban context

During our first visit we observed an existing extension opposite the property which acted as an ideal precedent for planning purposes. We investigated the planning history of the locale which highlighted the neighboring property had recently been grated this extension which we referenced in our design and access statement and a small massing study model to scale 1: 100. Working and thinking with our hands through physical models is an invaluable part of the design process regardless of job type and is always a refreshing break away from CAD, as is a little time spent on Photoshop finalizing drawings.

Proposed elevation illustrating the extension in context

As per contract, the measured survey, production of all drawings and documentation was submitted to the council within a week. We are always committed to producing work on time and according to regulations and the specified contract, in this case 7 working days.

The property and proposed development with the neighboring extension in the background.