Hothouse

Ash Sakula squeezed this campus of studios, workshops, and offices into a unusually narrow, inaccessible site, sandwiched between the parkland of London Fields and the brick-arched mainline railway out of Liverpool Street. Transforming an awkward piece of brownfield land into a vibrant new creative cluster, the building was the result of a competition to make a new headquarters for the Free Form Arts Trust, a network of arts practitioners, landscape designers and architects. Its name, Hothouse, recollects the botanical glasshouses of Loddiges Nursery, which stood nearby in the 18th century. 

Awards

2003 Mayor’s Special Award for Planning Excellence. Ken Livingstone described Hothouse as "an outstanding artistic space."

2008 Hackney Design Award. Jury comment: “The building has beautiful and flexible working spaces, which are full of light and look out over the park... Although the materials are often inexpensive, they are used with joy and playfulness. This makes the building fun, and at times, really beautiful.”

2009 Civic Trust Award 

2009 RIBA Award for Architecture

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.

Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Read more about the thinking behind this project:

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.

Client: Free Form Arts Trust

Contractor: Mansell Construction

Project Manager: Michael Mitchell

Structural Engineer: Dewhurst Macfarlane

M+E Engineer: Michael Popper Associates

Cost Consultant: Faithful & Gould