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For sale: Kensal Rise house by RIBA award winning architect

PUBLISHED: 16:46 05 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:46 05 February 2016

Natural light from floor to ceiling windows softens the exposed concrete surfaces

Natural light from floor to ceiling windows softens the exposed concrete surfaces

Copyright: Nathalie Priem

“Modernity without austerity” is how Deyan Sudjic, director of London’s Design Museum, describes Alfred Munkenbeck’s signature style in his understated foreword to the Munkenbeck + Partners website.

Modernity without austerity: these three words neatly sum up the aesthetic Munkenbeck has achieved with his Waldo Road project.

References to the Brutalist architecture of the 1950s such as modular design and exposed concrete are are tempered by the warm wood of the Dinesen floorboards and the large windows that flood the rooms with natural light.

The three-property development in NW10 is a rare departure for Munkenbeck, who usually designs galleries and art spaces but one of the houses is still on the market with Domus Nova for £1,995,000.

Educated at Harvard Graduate School of Design, the American-born architect came to the UK in the 1970s and carved a career from his contemporary yet creative style. He has won six RIBA awards in recognition of his contributions to architecture.

The Waldo Road project was awarded the 2015 Environmental Main Award by the local council; a delightful twist, given that the very same council had been decidedly sceptical throughout the planning process.

The conflict revolved around the introduction of modern design on a street of Victorian terraced houses, but Munkenbeck stood firm and refused to simply imitate the existing style of the street.

Speaking to Domus Life, Munkenbeck said: “Our design formed a natural existing end to a terrace facing an industrial view.”

Jutting proudly over the railway line like the prow of a Cubist ship, the profile of the properties neatly concertinas into the urban landscape.

Munkenbeck has managed to craft an interior space that functions as an ideal modern living space without losing the warmth and comfort of a home. “We challenge the perception of modernity by purposely making our buildings feel welcoming,” he explains.

“The houses we have built at Waldo Road were designed to provide a relatively minimalist living environment through the use of classic industrial rather than domestic construction materials.”

Munkenbeck’s design proves that exposed concrete doesn’t have to be cold and austere. The elegant space transforms this industrial material into a feature in itself.

“By creating spaces that need little enhancement from decorative possessions, it is possible to inhabit the spaces in a more purposeful way,” he says. Munkenbeck is adept at making “spaces that feel good to be in,” says Sudjiic.

There is no tension between functionality and form here; the architect has designs a space that easily accommodates the sprawling needs of the modern family with large open plan living spaces and smaller, modular bedrooms that allow for privacy and sanctuary.

“The houses… have an alternative division of space, with more modest bedrooms and loft living space that you could argue is far more suited to 21st-century lifestyles,” explains Munkenbeck.

The architect has risen admirably to the challenge of adapting the design of the property to the wedge shape of the end-of-terrace plot.

Instead of shoehorning in a typical family home set up, Munkenbeck has placed three of the bedrooms on the ground floor and created an integrated communal area by turning the first floor in to a loft-style lateral reception space.

Meanwhile, the fourth bedroom is perched in its own oasis of calm on the second floor.

There are touches of subtle luxury throughout the property, with steam showers or oval freestanding tubs in all the bathrooms

“Secretly we would all like a little bit of the Soho House magic at home,” says Munkenbeck.

“Executed properly, it is possible to create wonderful spaces almost anywhere that serve as relaxation areas too.”

The practice has even taken an original attitude to the ubiquitous London basement, creating a cavernous space on the lower ground floor that has been left open to interpretation (although at least one owner has subsequently installed a pool).

“This is a complex and difficult project to execute,” stresses Munkenbeck, “but we have been able to apply futuristic structural techniques and draw upon some of the best available engineers and materials.”

Great care and attention has also been paid to the environmental impact of the project. The homes are heated via the natural warmth drawn through 400ft deep chalk boreholes.

A custom designed ducting system then directs the air throughout the house, automatically cleaning it and moderating the temperature. Truly a modern way to live.

Domus Nova / 020 7221 7817

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