The house had been in family ownership for over a generation, incrementally added to and extended, resulting in a fading warren of cells and staggered floors. The architectural intervention introduced harmonious elements within a radically opened landscape that carefully mirrored the clients’ lifestyle, connecting the spaces of their various passions – cooking with entertaining, reading with writing, gardening with life. The rear walled garden oasis was the prime generator for a scheme which weaves a sense of the organic and the exterior throughout the building, offering a sense of outdoor nature amidst the comforts of home.
The house centres on a living room flowing effortlessly out into the garden (& vice versa) – its rear glazing dissoluble, its roof supporting a second garden above, providing a patio at the feet of the master bedroom. Walls and floors slide outwards into the great outdoors, the study, kitchen and living room straddling a delicate rear blade of glass, their pockets expanding to form great hills and planters, the floor curling into a series of steps and an elevated seating area above the sloping lawn. Ceiling slots carve serpentine rivers of light that slide through all apertures and across the sequence of spaces. Delicate pairs of thin skirting lines flow between the spaces, tracing their edges and framing passages, dramatically expanding into the stair’s sinuous web of curvaceous lines, climbing and wrapping throughout the first floor.
The staircase offered a simple array of steps, inviting the visitor on a gradual, elegant journey to the 1st-floor hallway, lifting them towards the light from a giant full-width skylight. The sensual horizontal treads were seamlessly blended into a vertical wall to the West composed of a mirror mesh of lines – timber balustrade strands designed to appear as threads hanging from the filigree bars of the landing balustrade above. Their upper geometry echoed the cadence of the existing balustrade above them and then bunched and pinched at key nodal points to achieve a series of simple, diagrammatic functions: curving and bunching at one end to cover the exposed edge of the landing, compressing at the other tip to open up the stair to entry, and pulled back like a curtain at the base to encourage open movement through.
On the other eastern edge, the treads converged into a single pair of lines that seamlessly merged, like a genie pressed into its lamp, with the skirting detail flowing throughout the rest of the house. A glance back thus suggests the skirting bending to rise from the floor, and bifurcating into each individual tread like a fern branching into leaves. This detailed and sinuous journey continued throughout the house, a simple line climbing to open and form a pocket of light or furnishing, carrying the eye ever onwards in its adventure through the home.
The underside of the stair was to house the toilet, tapping in to the existing drainage position at the lowest point of the house. Traditionally also experienced as the low point of residential atmosphere, our design strove to elevate a windowless bog to an extraordinary experience, re-casting the toilet as a throne for surveying the labyrinth of surrounding detail – from which to decipher at leisure the details and language of the design.
The staircase was manufactured entirely from timber, its chief structure achieved by laminating different thicknesses of MDF as either tread or riser or support wall, capping tips and verticals with finer threads of laminated oak. The volumetrics sought to minimise mass whilst ensuring stability, laminating 3 staggered layers of MDF in section to form an ultra-thin profile in the dominant elevations, layers of engraving further splitting the mass into the appearance of 2 thin strands. Everything was fabricated directly from 2D CAD information using digital CNC-routing, carefully intersecting flat-pack 2D elements to create a complex 3D composition with the illusion of 3-dimensional curvature.
The components arrived on site as a cohesive, easily-assembled kit of parts – an outsized 3D jigsaw constructed with the use of an animated flipbook. An engraved base-plate enabled precise positioning of outer frame walls and the central spine wall, both bridged by elaborately carved beams that slotted in sequence into these flank walls. Routing constraints limited the use of chamfered cuts and thus meant substantial voids at the intersection between diagonal planar elements, necessitating the generation of additional filigree masking elements. In the main stair void, these acted as tendrils resolving the eccentric junctions between riser and wall, curling up to form the additional delicate enclosing balustrades.
Floor area ground floor (internal) 132 sqm
Floor area 1st floor (internal) 92 sqm
Floor area 2nd floor (internal) 25 sqm
Total floor area (internal) 249 sqm
External (inc 24sqm first floor balconies) 109 sqm
architect : atmos : alex haw, friedrich vitzthum
engineer : built engineers : steve atkinson, duncan walters
contractor : red oak services : wojtek zygarlicki, kris legutko