Visit Dulwich, and you’ll find brick homes. Dulwich village, which I visited recently for the Edward Bawden exhibition, even has a semi-rural feel to it. In short, when you’re walking about in this area you don’t expect to see a modern house made of steel, concrete, and a luminous thermoplastic. And you don’t. The house is obscured from the street – nested in a central courtyard and former brickyard behind other houses. From the street you only see an unassuming metal gate.
Speaking to Grand Designs Magazine, the couple shared what their favourite part of the house was:
‘The feeling of utter secrecy each time you see it. People still knock on the big gate and wonder what it is, or they catch us with the gate open and want to have a look. They’re left speechless when they walk in and see the amazing facade of the house, because it’s hidden behind a row of shops.’
Featured on Grand Designs, the owners spent several difficult years building the house – which had to conform to difficult planning regulations and a challenging site. A consequence of London’s housing crisis and need for new land has been a number of innovative building projects around awkward spaces, as well as ambitious extensions to older stock such as this one.
The home is built around a central courtyard furnished with greenery. The cladding – a translucent material – showers the house with soft light during the day and in return illuminates the central courtyard at night. Speaking during construction, Kevin McCloud said of the cladding:
They’ll be using their most unusual industrial material: enormous semi-transparent polycarbonate panels for the inner walls of the courtyard. So, after dark, the whole of the house will light up like a Chinese lantern. It’s a lean and eccentric vision. It is not your bog standard white box … this building really delivers. The classical proportions and the cladding lifts the place way beyond the humdrum, adding a fission of glinting excitement in the London sun. If you are going to build a shed, let it look like this.
The mezzanine walkway below is floored with exposed particle board, polished for a subtle look and continued throughout most of the house. This elegant but exposed style was characterised by the architects as that of a ‘noble shed’.
The materials used stem inspiration from the raw brick of the surrounding buildings, but also the site’s ‘informal, not to say scruffy, qualities’ of its industrial history as a brickyard. The large glass doors of the double-height living room fittingly frame the courtyard as just another living room.