Blog – Box House wins AJ Small Projects 2013

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The AJ Small Projects Award is an annual celebration of architectural projects completed with a budget of £250,000 or less.  The award really helps to change people’s perceptions of what constitutes a piece of architecture at smaller scale, and rewards those architects and clients who have managed to achieve design excellence for competitive prices. Projects include a reception desk with a budget of  £7000, a small pop-up gallery and a garden pavilion. However this year’s award went to a very small London based practice which made maximum use of a disused box factory located in the garden of an end of terrace Victorian House. The result is truly beautiful.

A description of the project by the architect Laura Dewe Matthews is as follows; (copyright of Architect’s Journal  2013)

The site was originally part of the garden of an early Victorian end of terrace house in Hackney

It was first built on in the 1880s, to provide Alfred Chinn (the then resident of the end of terrace house) with space for his box factory, making wooden boxes for perfumes and jewellery.

The site changed hands and uses a number of times over the following 100 years, then in 2008 I purchased it, and, in discovering the history of the site, was drawn to assemble yet another box inside the original envelope of the factory.

The one bed, new-build house was recently completed using a cross-laminated timber super structure, placed inside the existing perimeter brickwork walls and rising up out of them. The timber structure has been left exposed internally. Externally the palette of materials is limited to the original brickwork, round ‘ancy-butt’ western red cedar shingles and galvanised steel flashings, window frames and window reveals. The soft shape of the shingles contrasting with the crisp edges of the galvanized steel.

The form of the proposal was a response to the constricted site, with neighbours’ rights to sunlight, daylight and privacy all to be respected. Consequently the only elevation that could have any windows was the north facing, pavement fronted elevation, so the proposal countered this with large south facing roof-lights, added to this, light is brought into the main living spaces via a new private yard.

The result is a small yet generously proportioned house. At ground floor level it retains the openness of the original workshop while feeling a sense of separation from the street immediately adjacent.

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