Barnsbury 096

A stray bomb in 1944 demolished several houses in this a quiet Victorian street in Barnsbury, Islington. For ten years the plot sat empty until in 1955 this house was built by the Home Office as accommodation for warders from Pentonville Prison. The first move was to create a kitchen extension at the rear with a curved, vaulted zinc roof and a wall of glass blocks looking onto a private courtyard garden. This was followed by a planning application to transform the house by the addition of a new storey in place of the pitched roof, and a two-storey extension at the front.

This would radically transform an undistinguished property and was designed in an uncompromisingly contemporary style which, nevertheless, respects the scale, design and materials of the Victorian street. Although the elegant and innovative design was supported by planning officers and local residents, it was resisted by the conservationists at Islington Council and eventually went to appeal. In a landmark decision for contemporary architecture the inspector held that the design would result in an improved appearance and would not harm the character of the area.

The additional storey is steel framed, and clad in high performance insulation and sparkling white render. At the front floor-to-ceiling glass doors open out onto a South-facing roof terrace with views over Barnsbury.

At the front the new wall is clad in beautiful patinated zinc. Floor to ceiling windows in high-performance milk glass allow changing patterns of light into the interior throughout the day making the interior feel spacious and natural.

The house is designed with a range of innovative environmental measures to reduce the carbon footprint of the building. Heating is controlled by intelligent thermostats that “learn” how the building reacts and adjust themselves accordingly. Water is heated by solar panels on the roof and there is a whole-house ventilation system with heat recovery, which extracts stale air from the bathrooms and pumps fresh filtered air back in whilst recovering the energy that would otherwise be lost.

Winner of the Galvanizers Association Award.

“The family have gained a gorgeous contemporary home tailored to the way they live, which is kinder to the environment not the bargain. This isn’t plastic surgery, but a more fundamental operation that’s given a Fifties home a new lease of life in the twenty-first century"

Grand Designs Magazine

“In a way, it is not like a house at all. With its tiny little courtyard garden out the back – little more than the space you find on many a roof terrace – it feels a lot more like some kind of luxurious penthouse. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s three storeys high, you wouldn’t be astonished to find it perched on top of some big block of apartments, rather than on terra firma."

Hugh Pearman/
The Sunday Times