This is one of the odd sites that Urbanist Architecture seems drawn to. Picture a typical London Victorian shopping parade - three-storey redbrick buildings with flats above. After the last of those - one with a takeaway on the ground floor - is something that’s more than an alley but less than a street. Along this passageway are small workshops and offices, some of which have been converted into homes.
And on the passage, behind the takeaway, was a small breezeblock and corrugated iron structure built as a garage but later used as a minicab office.
Our clients wanted to replace this odd little building with new homes. Yes, it was a tiny site, but one with great transport connections and in a part of the borough where the council actively wanted new homes. And because our clients knew we specialised in this kind of difficult site, they came to us.
The first idea was to design a separate new building to replace the old garage. But it eventually became clear that in order to make that big enough for more than a single flat, it would get unhealthily close to the Victorian building with the takeaway, which our clients also owned.
It’s vital that both developers and architects are smart enough not to be stubborn. Although we had put months of hard work into the first design concept, we realised that it wasn’t working. Instead, taking a lead from several interesting recent developments in the neighbourhood, we switched from a separate building to a large extension. This involved demolishing part of a roof of the rear part of the existing building, and produced an interesting design.
The old flat above the takeaway had no outdoor space - now, with the addition of dormers, there would be two flats at the front, both with terraces. Then, in the new extension, there would be two flats, again, both with outdoor space. So the site would go from one flat to four, all under five minutes away from a tube station.
And it would all look much better too - the tatty old garage replaced by the well-designed extension with interesting levels and details.
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