See inside Tufnell Park sunken student housing

Student accommodation by Emrys Architects

Student accommodation by Emrys Architects - Credit: Archant

The redevelopment for a housing association comprises a contemporary sunken building of eight compact houses set behind a refurbished Edwardian building

Emrys Architects, best known for redeveloping underachieving existing buildings and sites built the postgraduate student accommodation in the Tufnell Park Conservation Area.

The new-build is located in the large rear garden behind the mansion house, on the site of a single-storey 1950s brick building. Emrys’ scheme demolished the run-down annexe and replaced it with eight self-contained, one-bedroom duplex units. The flats in the Victorian building were also re-worked and refurbished.

The new building was inspired by the natural world. Conceived as a timber planter sunken into the ground, it is surrounded by wildflower planting and topped by a green roof, which blends into the garden.

Glyn Emrys, Director at Emrys Architects says, “A sensitive approach was taken to the massing of the new building to ensure it had a good relationship with the main house and gardens and would not be overbearing to neighbouring gardens.”

Angled COR-TEN steel screens to some first floor windows prevent overlooking of neighbours whilst still allowing a good level of light and air. The lacerated patterns on the screens were inspired by long meadow grass.

The project was completed for Zebra Housing Association, a not-for-profit organisation that has been providing housing in London to overseas students for 50 years. Most of the students are postgraduates and many have families.

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Peter Gray, Chief Executive at Zebra Housing, says, “We and, probably more importantly our residents, are absolutely delighted by the new homes that we’ve built. We believe that we have produced something that genuinely contributes to the built environment.”

Emrys Architects predominantly work with the tight difficult spaces typical of central London. Their projects range from small interventions to master planning and major developments for commercial, residential and educational clients.

In the Zebra Housing build, too, the restricted space was used put to full use. While the new units are compact, at 30m sq, they are modern and bright, with built-in joinery to make the best use of the space for living and studying at home. Emrys specified the furniture to ensure a good fit within the space and to blend with the colour scheme and the hardwood floors.

One micro flat in the mansion house is only 20m sq but clever design, including a ‘hit and miss’ staircase with in built shelving, leading to a sleeping platform make the most of what space there is.

There are still some units in the development available to let via Zebra Housing