Bethnal Green, London
Completion date: 2001
The Voss Street house is part of a mixed-use development comprising a shop on Bethnal Green Road and a new home for the practice’s director, Sarah Featherstone. Set in an inner city brownfield site measuring 20x4m, the house can also be seen as a prototype development for a typical urban terrace plot, hemmed in by adjacent residential and commercial buildings. It is designed as a courtyard house maximising space on the typically narrow terrace plot and providing privacy from adjacent buildings by its inward orientation. Within the constraints of an awkward site and a tight budget, the project provides a generosity of light, space and materiality.
The house presents a blank façade to the street, which heightens the sense of retreat and at the same time introduces an element of surprise. The high level of transparency orientated towards the internal courtyard is only revealed as one peels away from the main central spiral stair. Clad in red leather and artificially lit, the stair deliberately contrasts the light and openness of the different living spaces leading from it. This juxtaposition of open and closed spaces has a Dr Who tardis effect which makes the house appear to extend further and beyond. Whilst the stair provokes a sense of disorientation, the transparency of the rooms reveal a play of levels across the courtyard which visually opens up the house. Rooms that in the typical terraced house are vertically isolated from each other, here are drawn together creating a greater social dynamic.
Last October Voss Street house was featured on Channel 4’s “Not all Houses are Square”, which showcased innovative houses and housing in a quest to challenge people’s perception of what a house might be. We are currently working with developers on larger sites in London where we are incorporating the Voss Street courtyard modular design - a demonstration of how the practice’s thinking on one-off houses is readily adaptable to larger residential projects.