DGN Studio reconfigures the semi-Victorian in Hackney with a “concrete base”
The clients, a young couple, appointed DGN Studio to open the north-facing kitchen into a more generous common space capable of hosting larger gatherings and “celebrating their love for concrete”.
A series of small, disconnected Victorian rooms have been connected, physically and visually through stepped openings, providing long views from the entrance and front living room to the rear garden.
Dinesen wood floors and terrazzo tiles lead to the kitchen and dining room where long concrete benches grow on concrete floors, lining the perimeter. In addition to serving as multipurpose seats, they are intended to be used for display. The kitchen countertops are concrete, contrasting with the dark kitchen cabinets and the micro-cement rendering of the upper walls. A hidden cellar door leads to a utility area.
There is a large skylight above the kitchen island and soft oak joinery has been used for the windows, with sashes visually extending the width of the kitchen to the side return passage.
The low ceiling height of the original kitchen has been increased by lowering the floor level by half a meter and opening and expressing the wooden ceiling structure. This lowered floor level is structurally expressed as a “concrete tray” from which three concrete columns rise to support a T-shaped steel frame which in turn carries the upper level of the house.
This “concrete plateau” extends into the garden where concrete retaining walls, plinths and steps form informal benches and seating.
Outside the extension, concrete benches also appear, as intermittent seats perforated and recessed into the elevations.
Upstairs, a disused fireplace mantel has been removed and a refurbished bathroom, its window moved to avoid any vis-à-vis, and a skylight added.
It is a project on light. Light and the way it is experienced is always our first concern in any project we work on.
Our mandate was to reconfigure and expand the dark, north-facing rear areas of a Victorian house at the end of the patio into a light and airy room. It would be a space to welcome both privacy and gathering. It would form a new heart for the house, located between a revitalized garden and the restored formal rooms of the original house.
The first intervention consisted in lowering the floor at the back of the house by half a meter in order to create a higher space in relation to the large rooms of high proportions at the front of the house.
Structurally, this lowering of the ground required a series of poured concrete underlayments for the existing walls and this set a benchmark to the point where the ground was lowered, where the existing brick walls became concrete foundations.
Our client’s love for concrete was an opportunity to express this structural intervention, and we loved the idea of being able to read this part below the house as an all-concrete element that would give the space a feeling of anchoring. This hollow volume is the concrete base on which the oak frame rests.
Three concrete columns rise from this base below, and these support the T-shaped steel beam on which the existing stabilizer rests above.
The expressed frame is made of solid oak and creates a grid composition with glazed or wooden infill panels. Rather than huge uninterrupted expanses of glass, this grid allows for a more filtered relationship with the garden and the sky beyond, preventing the space from feeling overexposed.
There is depth to this frame, and by pushing the infill panels sometimes inward, sometimes outward, the perimeter of the building can be occupied.
The concrete plinth has been rectified on its horizontal surfaces, inviting different uses: a place to sit, read, prepare food or display objects.
A row of sash windows echoes the original glazing and extends the space into the side lane. A limited number of materials are used and this allows the most important element of the project – the light – to be read through the surfaces of the space.
There is a story in the way each building is put together, and we believe that part of the character and enjoyment of the space comes from being able to read that story, which in turn enriches the lives of those who are there. live.
Our homes must evolve with our lives. We wanted to create a home that was adaptable for our clients, not only immediately in how they use their new spaces on a day-to-day basis, but as their lives and priorities change.
Our clients have given us so much to work with. While discussing the brief and the project, we found that the project focused less on how it looked and how it should work for them. Prioritizing function while considering form allowed us to select materials that would function in simple aesthetic harmony, wear beautifully, and ultimately last.
The dialogue was very important – our excellent clients appreciated the way the required interventions could be expressed in architectural terms and were strongly committed to achieving the design intent. This brought the project to an unusual level of integrity and made it a joy to be a part of it.
Geraldine Ng, DGN Studio
Working with DGN Studio has been great from the start. We interviewed a few practices and from the first visit to the site, DGN Studio had infectious enthusiasm and a clear vision for how the space could be. for us, rather than approaching the project as a simple extension of a house in east London. The house turned out to be essentially the first offer they made to us; we loved their design and only slightly reiterated it.
DGN Studio fulfilled the task of opening up the kitchen to more light and height, and creating a space where we could socialize and enjoy the welcome from friends and family. They really surprised us with the quality of the choice of materials; the colors and tones complement the concrete floors and benches so perfectly.
Much of the house seemed disconnected and the kitchen was not a space we would want to spend time in. We like to take advantage of all the space in the expansion, but there are still so many little moments around the house that we didn’t think we’d like to use as much as we do now.
Rebecca Layoo and Roman Meyer
Start on the spot April 2019
Completion date September 2020
Gross interior floor area 45m2 (extension only) / 157m2 (total house)
Gross floor area (internal + external) 297m2 total (157m2 (internal) + 140m2 (external))
Form of contract or procurement route RIBA 2018 domestic construction contract
Construction cost £ 300,000
Construction cost per m2 £ 2,000 (about)
Architect DGN Studio
Clients Rebecca Layoo and Roman Meyer
Structural engineer Engineers built
Party Wall Surveyor Schofield Surveyors
Principal designer DGN Studio
Certified building inspector Control of the assent building
Main contractor Orsman Construction
Carpenter E Carpentry Square
GOUJAT software used Vectorworks 2020