Camden homes recognised for architectural excellence by RIBA

Fitzroy Park House, Stanton Williams

Fitzroy Park House, Stanton Williams - Credit: Archant

There are very few places in London, let alone the country as a whole, where you are better placed to see such an array of one-off residential architecture from throughout the ages than in Camden.

The borough’s long history of distinctive homes commissioned by private clients stretches as far back as the 18th century and wonderers of the borough today can walk past breathtaking buildings from each era right up to the present day.

It’s no great surprise then that three Camden-based residential projects were selected by RIBA for architectural excellence in its London 2015 awards.

Encompassing a sleek tree house in Highgate; a terracotta-clad, Victorian-inspired Hampstead home; and a semi-buried micro study extension, the three projects span the range of residential projects.

The most luxurious north London winner is Fitzroy Park house by architects Stanton Williams, replacing a 1950s house and accessed from the street by a bridge crossing a cascading stream.

The judges picked the house out for its “enticing mix of interlocking volumes and external terraces expertly embedded into the hillside.”

The somewhat startling design of the house, in which the cantilevered upper floor juts out over the lower level, is a response to the sloping site in the Highgate Conservation area on the edge of the Heath, which allowed the architects to build the lowest floor below street level.

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The stone and metal bridge connects to the heart of the house in the middle storey overlooking the double height living area.

From inside the building has the atmosphere of a tree house with views of the tree canopy from the upper level and natural materials including limestone, oak and plenty of glass, with large areas of floor-to-ceiling glazing used throughout.

A similar connection between inside and out can be seen in Gianni Botsford Architects’ White on White, a “jewel-like” study extension by the Regent’s Canal in Camden.

The homeowners wanted a room which would connect with the garden but not be too conspicuous from the canal towpath.

To achieve this, the architects lowered a seating area into the ground, so occupants sit at floor level, with their eyeline level with the grass. They also chose unframed ultra clear low iron glass for the walls and ceiling, making the entirely white room almost invisible from afar.

“What I find really interesting about this project is that it’s kind of camouflaged because of the really clear glass which means that it does disappear from outside,” says Gianni Botsford.

“It’s a study, somewhere that’s away from the normal things in the home.

“The kids use it for their homework and then they pack it up and put it away. It’s always left as a clean space, it’s a bit like hot desking for the family.”

Space is maximised in the tiny room by building in all the furniture.

“It’s so small it’s almost micro architecture, but every aspect in the brief is considered,” says Botsford. “It’s one of those projects that’s like a jewel.

“We don’t specialise in tiny things, we’re doing a 42-storey tower in China at the moment but I think they’re as important as each other.”

Similarly hidden in plain sight is the house on Netherhall Gardens, built as a family home for an architect.

The four storey building is designed to mirror the existing Arts and Crafts houses in the neighbourhood with terracotta hung tiles on the exterior blending it in with the turn of the century red brick buildings on either side.

Patrick Gilmarton, of Woollacott Gilmartin Architects, says: “It’s a very contextual house. We thought very very hard about how the house sits in this conservation area and how it relates to the surrounding houses.

“When you come down the street you don’t really notice it’s a modern house, at least not on first glance. It’s only modern in a secondary kind of way.”