The vacant piece of land known as 14A Garway Road, London W2 was reputedly the last undeveloped bomb site in the Bayswater and Notting Hill area. It was created by an incendiary bomb during the 1940 Blitz and remained untouched until June 2003. The site, in the centre of The Bayswater Conservation area sits between a row of unlisted terraces to the north and a group of listed Late Georgian houses to the south.
The client, a past director of the Twentieth Century Society and current secretary of Docomomo UK, purchased the land in the early 1970’s. Although a number of Architects expressed interest in producing a scheme for the site, it was not until the mid 1980’s that an application was submitted to Westminster. Planning approval was granted only after the scheme was taken to appeal. Unfortunately the downturn in the economy in the late 1980’s meant that the project faltered.
Belief that a fine contemporary building could coexist with the traditional building stock and determination to take the initial scheme to appeal was beneficial to a future application. Initial discussions in 1996 led to the development of a mixed-use proposal. After encouragement to simplify the proposal into a residential building of three apartments, the realised scheme began to evolve.
After a lengthy planning process and a number of presentations at committee level the scheme was finally approved in August 2000. Finding a contractor and developer not simply interested in throwing up a brick clad, steel frame and plasterboard replica of the building, but the substantial load bearing brick building as envisaged was difficult and frustrating.
The building consists of six levels; lower ground, raised ground and four levels above. It is divided in section into three two level apartments. Its profile and setbacks, loosely inherited from the previous application and the relatively narrow site influenced plan, form and section. Each apartment as a result has distinct spatial qualities. A central lime concrete staircase and continuous soffit, winding its way to each of the apartments generates a compact processional route through the building.
Brick is the predominant building material, forming all external and internal load bearing walls. Oak fenestration and double glazing, white precast concrete and two face fixed sheets of glass to the south elevation complete the external envelope.
Choice of finishes within each apartment is relative to exterior, section and light penetration. In the lower apartment all walls and floors are brick. All joinery is Oak and frames are articulated to ensure continuity of brick surfaces. In the middle apartment limestone is introduced to floors. In the upper apartment two large glazed apertures and a void dominate the layout. Sinks are carved from solid limestone. Counters are of limestone or oak of a thickness equal to a brick. All ceilings are unadorned and lighting is concealed.
From the outset, the approach was to design a building rich in material, simple and direct in construction. The surrounding buildings, faced in Gault, London stock brick or crème painted stucco informed discussions with the planners on choice of building material which ultimately led to the selection of the Redbank Ivory, a hard brick with specific textural qualities. At a distance the hue resembles that of the adjoining building; close up the brickwork has unique textural and surface qualities.
The visibility of the south elevation influenced the decision to build using a mortar capable of producing a construction joint free wall of over twenty metres length and seventeen metres in height from lower ground level. Brick strength was also critical in achieving all visible seamless surfaces. The load bearing brick structure is bound together using natural hydraulic lime mortar with white sand. The wide mortar brushed joints form a subtle contrast with the ivory brickwork. In combination, a textured surface quality is achieved that underscores the entire project. Every brick was carefully drawn and set out on site to avoid unnecessary cutting.
The remaining key interior and exterior elements such as precast concrete lintels, fenestration, joinery and stonework derive their dimension and detail directly from the brick and lime mortar module. Detailing throughout the project has been carefully considered to reflect the desire to express all brick surfaces and construction. Evidence of this approach can be seen on the south elevation where lay on glazing is articulated from the brickwork in a manner that facilitates the fullest expression of brick reveals and soffits.
The result of this carefully considered and crafted approach to the use of brick is an architecture of integrity and rigour where brick is structure, form, volume, surface and finish. The constantly changing London light enhances the reading of the individual brick and the overall.
Structural Statement by Matthew Wells, Techniker Consulting Engineers
The building structure comprises brickwork load-bearing walls throughout supporting in-situ cast reinforced concrete floors. Despite the apparent simplicity of construction much effort has been made to accommodate a variety of architectural requirements.
Walls are fair-faced inside and out. The scheme has been modelled in the computer as a three-dimensional object so that every brick location can be designated. Services are led through cavities to boxes co-ordinated with brick locations to avoid cutting. Window and door jambs and sills are set flush with the finished structure. The floors are over-reinforced and made as thin as possible externally so that balconies are level with internal spaces. Large picture windows require local framing in steel to transfer high concentrations of load.
Multi-storey buildings must be protected from progressive collapse. In this load bearing brick building simple steel elements, columns and stub beams, are dispersed within the brickwork to provide secondary load paths in case of damage. This steelwork is detailed to be robust and easy to fabricate and place.
The ground and basement storeys have full width spaces extending from front to back. A full-storey-height cross beam of reinforced brickwork transfers the loads of the upper floors to the side walls.
A carefully controlled high specification lime mortar is used for all the masonry so that movement joints are avoided. The construction work was carefully planned to allow adequate curing time for the brickwork.