Levels Ten + Eleven
Redesign and internal re-ordering of a tenth and eleventh floor, two bedroom duplex apartment overlooking the Paddington Basin.
With all of our projects, we place context at the centre of our work. We believe context is not just the physical surroundings but also the social, cultural and historical uniqueness of place. Our context for this project was the location, adjacent to the canal, and our clients. The design objective therefor, was to enhance the connection to the canal, make the most of the unique views and light and to create something unique to our clients and personal for them.
The clients’ duplex apartment overlooking the Paddington Basin always felt like a resultant space; a by-product of urban massing and volume unit production than representative of our clients. Rather than move, they sought to challenge this condition. Initial conversations centred on engendering a bespoke quality to the proposal; a sense of craftsmanship that rallies against this uniformity.
As extending was not an option, the proposal makes the existing apartment feel bigger with several simple manoeuvres. The existing stair, a standard component used throughout the development, significantly increased circulation space on the eleventh floor. The clients did not know how to occupy the resultant space and positioned their furniture against the perimeter glazing; turning their back on views of the canal. The stair was adapted with the simple addition of a winder, this manoeuvre reduced circulation space, reorienting the space towards the canal and expansive terrace. Further reinforcing this improved connection, the design embraces the buildings existing curtain walling system as a setting out reference for a bespoke timber lined grid, drawing the eye outward. The vertical connection between levels was achieved by the introduction of a concrete balustrade that wraps around a Dracaena tree the clients have owned for 21 years – a unique and personal experience within the property. The lower bedroom level has been redesigned as a connected and open series of spaces with full height douglas fir doors and seamless thresholds allowing borrowed light into the internal circulation space. English narrowboats along Regent’s Canal below, with their ornate timber detailing and craft, profoundly influenced the language for the proposal. The intricate timber detailing around the recessed lighting channels in the ceiling and cladding the window frames reflects this craftsmanship and contrasts with the ubiquity of the wider development. This concept of bespoke craftsmanship carries through to the matt black kitchen joinery, unique cast concrete kitchen and bathroom sinks, corian bath, LED timber stair handrail and floor to ceiling douglas fir doors; all made by a single craftsman. Privacy from overlooking and shade from the powerful evening sun are controlled using concealed automated blinds, discreetly hidden in the re-clad mullions. This is influenced by a reinterpretation of the traditional Japanese shoji, and forms a translucent boundary condition of lightweight movable screens, experienced by the clients on their travels. These simple adaptions to the form and layout has transformed these two disparate levels into one connected whole. This apartment is no longer a series of resultant spaces on the tenth and eleventh floors, it is now theirs.
Materials & Appearance
A restrained palette of materials was carefully selected to balance the solidity and industry of the existing structure with the heritage, tradition and craft of the canal. This palette, alongside the Japanese influences of the client has resulted in a calm but richly detailed scheme comprising of only three materials:
- The floor, doors and the detailed lighting channels are formed with douglas fir, providing warmth, texture and richness to the living spaces that were previously absent from the apartment.
- The solidity and permanence of the concrete contrasts with the craft and delicacy of the timber whilst still maintaining tactility. The use of concrete was inspired by the exposure of the existing structural concrete column on the eleventh floor.
- Linking the douglas fir and concrete by providing a relief is matt black joinery. This material forms a back drop to these more textural materials giving a consistency to each space and a coherence between levels.