Hoxton Street N1
We bought the upper floors of this curious little brick tower building on Hoxton Street as a place to live and work. It is part of an early 1970s social housing project by Leonard Manasseh architects designed for the Greater London Council, and acts typologically as the public face of the housing estate. We presumed that in the past the shop at ground floor was a post office and that the postmistress would have lived upstairs. In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government offered council tenants the “right to buy” their properties.
The penthouse was constructed offsite from a softwood balloon frame made in approximately 3-4m long panels. It, along with the glass, was craned onto the flat roof in one hour. A new staircase was also prefabricated and craned up. The timber frame was erected in a week, the glazing was installed within a month. The flat roof covering was stripped away and removed from the inside. A hole was cut into the concrete roof structure for a staircase which was then dropped into position into the stairwell below.
The birch plywood ceiling and vertical panels are structural and enabled us to eliminate cross bracing. Where we overlook our neighbours the glass is translucent. Rigid foil covered insulation panels sit behind translucent glass panels making them appear milky white. The vertical timber columns occur at 600mm centres, and the glass panels are also made 600mm wide. Oak mullions fix the glass to the columns. From the inside, depending upon your position, you either see a wall of columns or straight through them to a view beyond.
The building is pure structure and was very economic and fast to build. It is our critique of British hi-tech architecture. We have done away with the unnecessary layers of a glazing system that is on a different module to the structure which is then usually amended with cross bracing. The glass acts as a translucent or clear rainscreen and creates a monolithic object. The 600mm glazing module of the existing building and its neighbours appears to have been simply extruded upwards to form the additional storey which almost looks as if it has always been there. The windows open, as does a rooflight, to create natural ventilation (the rooftop lantern acts a solar chimney)
Initially we used the new penthouse floor as our design studio. When we had a family and began also to get larger, more commercial commissions it became impractical to bring clients and employees through our domestic space, even if the private rooms sat behind fire doors off a stairwell on every floor, and we moved Lynch architects one mile closer to the centre of London in 2008. We then sold the property to a young filmmaker in 2009 and moved into a Georgian house in Clerkenwell close by our new office which is almost exactly the same size and form as this little tower building. For a while we moved the master bedroom onto the top floor and had the pleasure of uninterrupted views South, East and West across the skyline of London.