London Mews are back alleys once lined with workshops, stables and servants' quarters that served the big houses on the main streets. Today, many mews buildings have become homes and, in doing so, have been sites of architectural experimentation.
This end of terrace house in Bloomsbury occupies a small triangular plot that completes a terrace of mews houses. Completed in 1996, it was Ash Sakula’s first new building. The front elevation appears at first sight to play with the normal mews elements of sash windows and garage doors. But there is more going on besides, better seen from the side or the rear where the house assumes a more contemporary idiom.
1998 RIBA Award
2000 Civic Trust Award
A close-up detail of the facade at the entrance to one of the upper apartments. Profiled translucent fibreglass back by silver foil, with strands of electrical cable in the interstices. Chain link fencing surrounds each upper flat's terrace.
Being briefed to produce two-bedroom apartments, each measuring just 67m², precipitated a re-appraisal of the spatial priorities of the traditional small flat, which resulted in an unconventional but extremely workable configuration.
The dwellings are identically arranged around an enlarged hallway where the space is both light and complex - anything but a corridor. It is large enough to hold a desk or daybed, a place to sort laundry or an area for children to play.
Bedrooms are kept as small as possible. Clothes, for example, are stored elsewhere. While the kitchen is the main social space of the flat, the living room is a cosy (with)-drawing room that can also be a home office or guest room.
Bathrooms and WCs are separate. Each is spacious, has a large basin and an opening window.
The plan above was made at competition stage.
The corrugated cladding set against silver foil creates lavender and turquoise reflections. In the corrugation's interstices are suspended twisted strands of black and white electrical cabling, adding to the kinetic parallax illusion created as one passes the buildings - an effect developed by Ash Sakula in collaboration with the artist Vinita Khanna.
A few weeks after the residents moved in we received this painting from the Brewer family. It said, "Thank you for our incredible home." In an accompanying letter the Brewers wrote, "... we have never seen anything better designed for us as a family. Thank you for all your thoughtful hard work."
Animators Wrench & Franks made a short video of the project. Here is a still from the closing sequence.