ARCHITECTS' JOURNAL

SOPHIE HICKS ARCHITECTS DESIGNS MINIMALIST CONCRETE HOUSE IN KENSINGTON

by Fran Williams. Photographs by Annabel Elston. February 2019

The house at Earl’s Court Square has an underground lower storey to reduce visibility from the street.

Sophie Hicks Architects has completed a submerged house in Kensington, London. The site of just 75m² is in a conservation area, which meant a planning constraint height of two storeys – one above ground and one below.

The ground floor has generous ceiling heights of up to 3m, with glazed extensions creating a visual connection to the surrounding trees.

The house has been constructed out of an exposed concrete frame with a rough board-marked finish, while the floors are polished concrete with underfloor heating. The high-specification glass is framed with a grid of steel T-section beams. 

Sophie Hicks Architects began by designing private houses before moving into architectural consultancy for a number of high-profile fashion companies to give expression to their brand identities – working with Paul Smith, Chloe, Acne Studios and Yohji Yamamoto.

Architect’s view:

Our goal was to create an urban house that was comfortable but sustainable – and looked and felt, in every sense, healthy. The challenge was to do so on a site of just 75m² in central London, in a conservation area where we were limited by planning constraints of two storeys.

The design aims to maximise not only the actual space internally but also the perception of space. We have thus built right up to the boundaries – something that entailed both delicate party wall negotiations and a careful choice of construction methods.

In addition, the house is visually open to the natural world outside, with abundant natural light and air and carefully framed views of the surrounding canopy of trees. The construction of the house is clean and legible. The structural frame is exposed concrete with a rough board-marked finish. The floors are polished concrete, which can be heated and cooled. The glazing of aluminium and stainless-steel framed windows and doors, some of which slide, is contained within a strongly dominant grid of T-section steel.

To reduce heat loss and solar gain, in line with Building Regulations, we chose high- specification glass, while we opted for a structure in concrete with significant thermal mass, for the same reason. The house is a quiet machine with heating, cooling, lighting and alarm systems to offset COemissions.

Contemporary houses like this are sadly rare in Kensington – and even more rarely visible from the street.

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