This project for three houses of single-room depth is built on the site of a former print factory constructed after the war. Seen as an instance of urban repair, the project acknowledges and celebrates the “patchwork city” to which it belongs, its brick facade supplying the missing piece in the block of which it is a part. Cognizant of the eighteenth-century small London house typology that once occupied the site and the level of urban intensification that came with them, themes of compact city dwellings are explored through the design of these houses. Flat-fronted and abutting their adjacent neighbours, these dwellings lie firmly in support of the “street” and continue to define its hard-edged, intimate character.
The 12 × 9 metre site with a single east-facing aspect to Chance Street is divided into three plots, each occupied by a three-storey house. Light and air are brought into the rear by a series of small courtyards with white clay brick walls. The intimacy of these external spaces is both animated and illuminated by the extensive glazed elevations that open onto them. At ground level, a configuration of folding glazed screens facilitates opening two sides of the courtyard to the interior of the houses, while on the first floor the large bi-folding windows that constitute one side of the bedroom open externally across the void of the courtyard, consuming this space by its physical action. The open nature of the elevations at the rear embraces the courtyards as wholly private spaces, their character and material presence a contrast to the dark brick “public” facade to the street, and the part they play within this neighbourhood’s urban patchwork.
Like the generic London townhouses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the configuration of these houses anticipates a shifting of their occupants’ use over time; rooms are designed with a view to hosting a range of activities across each level. Inverting the usual tradition – since this typology offers no ground-level garden – the dining room / kitchen is positioned on the top floor, being farthest from the street and benefiting from the best light, bedrooms are on the first floor, and the ground floor is considered flexibly for a variety of uses that may include a small work room. Given the narrowness of the street, domestic activities on the ground floor are distanced from the pavement edge by large inset porches. These porches are secured by perforated and folded yellow metal “curtains,” which allow the eastern sunlight to penetrate, its effect an intentional counterpoint to their gritty context.