Levels of Light

Year

2022

Status

Ongoing

Location

Muswell Hill

We were approached to create a new design for this empty plot of land in Muswell Hill. The backland site presented many challenges, including a steep North-facing slope and a single point of access at the end of a row of garages. Being completely surrounded by residential plots on all sides meant that, to avoid negative impacts on the existing houses and gardens, there was extremely limited scope to build upwards.

The client wanted spacious light-filled living areas with a good relationship to the external areas of the plot. There were also specific views from the site that were important, including a view of Alexandra Palace to the North. In addition, a large master suite and several en suite bedrooms as well as working areas and an outdoor pool were to be accommodated.

The design embraces the changing levels of the site and uses them to organise a sequence that includes the entrance, living room, library and a flexible cinema/gym space as the building makes its way down the slope. This fall gave the opportunity for a second level to be introduced above the lowest section of the main floor. This houses a morning room with views of Ally Pally and the large kitchen and dining room that give access to the main garden area.

Up the slope to the South and West of the entrance sit the two children’s bedrooms and the Master Suite. The latter reaches out to the garden area, an open glazed corner giving wide views out over the garden and pool.

The whole set of spaces is arranged in a U-shape around a stepped open courtyard that rises up to the higher garden space to the West. This sunken external space brings light to the smaller spaces at lower levels as well as allowing glazed doors over 3m in height to the main living area. The terracing alongside the steps is fully planted to soften the outlook and culminates in the outdoor pool.

Glazed openings were carefully tailored to afford views of both the site and the wider world wherever possible. This was achieved without increasing overlooking and compromising the privacy of the neighbours. The use of high level clerestory glazing and skylights throughout the building ensures that, despite being partially submerged into the slope, the internal spaces are generously lit.Â

The material palette reflects the construction method. Internally, the structural materials are celebrated with board marked concrete to the earth bound lower levels and exposed CLT forming the walls and ceilings of the upper floors. Externally a similar approach is taken with profiled timber cladding to the upper floors and concrete below.

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