Tag Archives: Architecture

 In praise of church conversions

 

Church conversions offer heavenly architectural features, soaring heights and quirky contemporary living spaces – usually at the heart of a community

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 15.58.07

It’s not just buyers that love a church conversion, for developers they are a dream project, the chance to create a landmark residence, with unique living spaces. But taking on the double-height windows, crumbling spires, and leaking lead roofs is not a job for the feint-hearted, and it takes an experienced architect to sensitively configure the space. There is little more depressing than a badly converted church. Get it right though, and the results are remarkable.

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The 19th-century Saint Paul’s Church in Battersea was in a sorry state when developer Nick Laurence spotted it in 2013, but given the how rarely they come to market he jumped at the chance to buy it. “I was captivated by its potential and I could see that we could retain the church’s originality and ecclesiastical architecture, yet make intelligent adaptations to the existing structure and layout,” explains Laurence.

Today, the outside of the church looks much the same, although there’s a new roof that Laurence’s team travelled the country to source and completely reconditioned stained glass windows – but inside it has been divided in to four completely bespoke apartments across three new floors, the Apse, the Cloister, the Spire and the Tower.

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Throughout, the renovation has been as sympathetic as possible. “The church brought with it an innate sense of calm and a sanctuary away from London’s fast pace, so we sought to perpetuate that with the most natural materials that would complement rather than juxtapose the original edifice,” says Laurence. “We worked closely with our interior designer, Sarah Reed, to identify and retain as much of the church’s identity as possible.”

The three-bedroom Apse apartment is framed by double-height stained glass windows, while open plan living, dining and kitchen areas offer contemporary counterpoint. Any additions that have been made are based on century’s old stonework and hues, with tactile surfaces finished in oak, limestone, marble, linen and velvet to reflect the church’s timeless feel.

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“The Apse is a great example of how we’ve expanded on the existing structure with a new staircase, conceived to resemble a pulpit, with a thick rope bannister to evoke the ropes that ring church bells. We even handmade Gothic style arched doors.”

A mezzanine floor, complete with a library built into a huge arch that was the former altar, overlooks the living area and also harbours a hidden door in the library wall that leads to the jewel in the crown of the apartment: a 550-square-foot master bedroom suite.

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But it’s the Spire apartment, that includes the church bell tower, where the renovation of this project really comes to life. Laurence has turned it into a folly within the apartment – it is breathtaking, and offers its lucky owner panoramic views of the city. While some would have dismissed it as an unworkable space, Laurence has installed a viewing platform, which is wired for sound and illuminated by a five-metre-long, hand blown glass chandelier.

“We had a team of 12 joiners on site constructing a specially made wooden spiral staircase to provide access to this stunning space,” he explains.

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“Even after being on site for 18 months – at times with a team of 40 experts, overcoming obstacles and working with the challenges of a 160 year old church – I still find the building utterly compelling,” says Laurence. “Every visitor is awestruck.”

It’s rare to find such a well-restored and sensitively converted church, especially one that was formerly in such a state of disrepair – perhaps of this derelict building it was a case of divine intervention.

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The apartments at The Sanctuary are on the market from £1,650,000. Douglas & Gordon’s Battersea office on 020 7924 2000 or Winkworth’s Battersea office on 020 7228 9265.

Divine inspiration, three more ecclesiastical conversions:

St Joseph’s Gate, Mill Hill

Throughout the design and transformation of this Grade II-listed seminary, set in seven acres of grounds, the developer Berkeley has retained a host of original features, including the ornate Victorian staircases, imposing, feature windows and ornamental ironwork, all meticulously restored to its former grandeur. There are 59 luxury apartments in the gated development, starting from £899,995, and the showhome launched last week, contact 020 7718 5202, www.knightfrank.co.uk

 

The Lourdes Collection, Fulham

This historic Victorian Fulham church newly converted into nine luxury apartments, with a very modern feel, is moments from West Brompton underground. There are still three, two-bedroom apartments available, from £975, 000, 020 7368 4830, www.marshandparsons.co.uk

 

Oakfield Court, Bristol

Further afield, this new development launches in September and comprises 16 one- and two-bed apartments over four floors set within a beautifully converted church in Bristol’s highly desirable Clifton area. Expect kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows, high-vaulted ceilings, and even the church’s original arches – all have been retained and restored as part of the sympathetic conversion.

Prices from £225,000, 0117 317 1999, www.knightfrank.co.uk

 

ALISON TYLER

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Manhattan meets East London

A raft of new sky-piercing towers is springing up at Canary Wharf – allowing new residents to live the high life, in more ways than one

South Quay Plaza
South Quay Plaza

Berkeley Homes has built a reputation on being a bit special, as their managing director Harry Lewis says “we don’t do any ‘standard’ products, each development is bespoke and hand-picked. We pick our projects very carefully – it keeps us honest and it makes what we do different and full of character. We don’t have a cookie-cutter approach.”

And there is certainly nothing cookie-cutter about their latest project. It is extraordinary: a gleaming, slimline glass tower designed by Foster + Partners sitting at the crossroads of two docks, right opposite South Quay DLR and on a direct path (once they’ve built a bridge across the dock) to the Jubilee line and Crossrail station.

It wouldn’t look out of place in downtown Manhattan or Hong Kong and in an instant it has made the rest of Canary Wharf look dated and clunky – which is no mean feat.

South Quay Plaza will be surrounded by "pocket" parks
South Quay Plaza will be surrounded by “pocket” parks

It is brave and bold and startlingly tall, soaring to 68 storeys, making it the UK’s tallest residential scheme (ahead of the Shard, whose penthouse sits on the 64th and 65th floors). Around the base of the two diamond-shaped towers, angled to make the most of the sunlight and dual-aspect position on the dock, there will be 10,000 square feet of retail and dining space as well as a public park and gardens for the apartments – in fact 1.6 acres of the three-acre site will be given over to the gardens and space around the buildings. “It will be really something unique for this neighbourhood where most sites occupy more than 90 per cent of the site that they are on, it will give something back to the area by offering space and public gardens, which will bring life into the area, too, so there will be a really buzzy atmosphere,” explains architect and master-planner Grant Brooker a senior partner at Foster + Partners. “Tall buildings are the right answer for this area, but you have to generate life around them and set the buildings in a ‘place’ – high rise is all about getting the design right and about what you give back, there has to be a trade-off.”

South Quay Plaza's retail and social space
South Quay Plaza’s retail and social space

And the glass towers certainly have the “wow” factor – they will be little wider than two average-sized houses once built, but the sheets of glass, with lots of angles cut in to bring even more light through the building, feel airy and transparent so that despite the height, it is incredibly elegant and unobtrusive. “I knew I wanted something really spectacular,” explains Lewis, “so we sent out the tender to six of the very best architecture firms, but the Foster + Partners’ plan was so brilliant, they had us at ‘hello’.”

It seems the Tower Hamlets planners were equally enamoured as the plans went through without any significant changes at all, bar a reduction in height by five storeys (“they were worried that planes might not see it,” says Brooker), which is virtually unheard of.

There will 888 homes at South Quay Plaza, from suites to three-beds and penthouses, but Lewis doesn’t look worried about selling them, the workforce in Canary Wharf is predicted to double by 2025 and average earnings here are the highest in the country, while property prices are expected to grow by 37 per cent over the next four years, compare to a London average of 29.4 per cent.

“This is the start of a new era for Canary Wharf,” Brooker tells me. “First came the office phase, and more recently is has been all about embracing retail and the emergence of entertainment and dining spaces. Now it is time for the residential story to develop – it’s the natural next step.”

A new bridge between the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf and Marsh Wall will drive footfall through the space, creating a vibrant destination
A new bridge between the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf and Marsh Wall will drive footfall through the space, creating a vibrant destination

The floor-to-ceiling windows, interiors also designed by Foster + Partners, and the inclusion of residents’ facilities such as a vast wellness centre with a pool and gym, and a club occupying the entire 56th floor with an outdoor terrace that will feature two bars, a lounge, screening room, dining rooms and meeting rooms, even a homework room for children and a crèche, all make this a building to live in, not just a trophy home.

And where Berkeley lead, the well-heeled, and other developers, follow. They are the Waitrose of the building world. So you can expect a small forest of shiny new residential towers to spring up in South Quay Plaza’s wake – in fact by 2020 there will be more than 5,000 residential homes here, that’s a whole new town. Get ready Canary Wharf, things are about to get a whole lot more lively.

South Quay Plaza launches on 14 July with suites starting from £490,000, www.southquayplaza.london

 

Towering in the East –  new developments reaching for the skies in Docklands

10 Park Drive
10 Park Drive
10 Park Drive
10 Park Drive

10 Park Drive

The current site of Wood Wharf will become a new mixed-use district of offices, retail, parks, a hotel, school and more than 3,000 apartments, filling a currently languishing site on the east side of the Canary Wharf Estate – incredibly these residential homes are the first ever to be built on the Canary Wharf estate in its 30-year history.

Numerous big name architects will be involved from Herzog & de Meuron to Grid, Make and Stanton Williams, who are responsible for 10 Park Drive, the first tower of some 30 buildings that will be constructed here. There are 345 studio, one and two-bed apartments with a residents’ roof terrace in the 13-storey tower that will adjoin another, 42-storey tower. Residents will also have membership to a health and fitness club. The apartments launch on 9 July with prices from £395,000, www.canarywharf.com/residential.

Harbour Central
Harbour Central

Harbour Central

Comprising five residential buildings, a leisure complex and park, Galliard Homes’ Harbour Central sits moments from South Quay DLR. Its flagship Art-Deco-style tower, Maine Tower, will be 42 storeys high and has been conceived as a “vertical village” with social spaces on various levels, from a library and cinema to a gym, spa and residents’ club. The interiors have been designed by Nicola Fontanella of Argent Design, bringing Miami glamour to Docklands.

The 297 studios, one, two and three bedroom apartments at Maine Tower, launched at the weekend, with prices from £350,000, www.harbourcentral.com

Dollar Bay
Dollar Bay
Dollar Bay
Dollar Bay

Dollar Bay

A little further down South Dock from South Quay Plaza, and sitting opposite the Wood Wharf site, developer Mount Anvil is constructing Dollar Bay, 111 apartments from studios to three bedrooms, with a winter garden for every apartment, a residents’-only garden, gym and lounge. The glossy, glass tower has been created by Ian Simpson Architects and will have unrivalled views over the river to Greenwich. Register an interest ahead of their launch at www.mountanvil.com

Newfoundland-2014-1-1024x576-741x417

Newfoundland Tower
Newfoundland Tower

Newfoundland Tower

On the western side of the Canary Wharf Estate, dubbed the diamond building because of its diamond-like supporting frame (rather like the Gherkin), Newfoundland Tower will be 58 storeys tall, housing 566 apartments, when it completes in 2017. www.canarywharf.com/residential

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The Barbican, reborn

The stellar refurbishment of the Barbican’s Brutalist fourth tower proves that you can go back to the future, without creating something hackneyed or ersatz

Central London new developments generally don’t come with an iconic Grade II-listed building, mature gardens the size of a small park, ponds complete with ducklings, secure parking and cycle clubs, storage facilities, gyms, schools, crèches, a restaurant – oh, and Europe’s largest arts and cultural centre, on your doorstep. But then it would be hard to find anywhere quite like the Barbican.

This Brutalist Sixties development (which actually wasn’t finally completed until 1982) has come full-circle, as a new appreciation for the raw, bush-hammered concrete walls, industrial-chic Crittall doors and Mad Men-style architecture is back in vogue, and large-scale community-led developments have finally been recognised as the building model to strive for. As resident and architect Dave King says, “The Barbican’s architecture is ageless, generous and robust. But what you appreciate when you live here is how peaceful it is, even though you are in a crowded city.”

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He’s right; as I visited on a sunny day last week, one resident was running the organic food shop on site, another gave us a friendly hello as he held open the garden gate, and several people were quietly enjoying the gardens, while others were actively getting their hands dirty in the wildlife garden. A flyer advertises a garden tour and talk by one of the estate’s oldest residents coming up soon. “If you want it, there is a really thriving community here that you can be part of,” says Tina Evans, group director at Frank Harris estate agent, who has been based on the Barbican estate for 16 years. With a community of 4,000 people, the Barbican is practically an urban village within the City of London.

“Some residents have been here since the beginning, and others move around trading up and down as there is such a diverse mix of housing here,” explains Evans. “Once people move in, they rarely move out, which is why the new flats are so exciting.”

The bespoke designed kitchens by Conran + Partners
The bespoke designed kitchens by Conran + Partners

The flats she’s talking about are in Blake Tower, the only tower that is not yet a residential building. The former YMCA building on Fann Street has been empty since the last students moved out in 2012, but now developer Redrow is in the process of gutting the insides of the 17-storey block to carve out 74 contemporary, art-inspired studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The original 1960s architects were the internationally renowned Chamberlain, Powell and Bon, and today it is being sensitively restored and refurbished by Harper Downie, while the interiors will be reworked by another iconic architecture and interior design studio Conran and Partners. “We’ve been inspired by the historical, architectural and cultural characteristics of the Barbican to create a fresh, exciting and crafted design that has a modern heritage,” says Simon Kincaid, project director at Conran and Partners.

The terrazo bathroom at Blake Tower
The terrazo bathroom at Blake Tower

The design is all about celebrating and complementing the existing structure and the innovative, modernist original design from the Sixties. The dramatic spaces will be showcased with clean minimalist lines and delicate brass detailing, such as the screen that will divide the living room and the curved brass door handles. “We wanted to soften the Brutalism so that it feels warm, rich and soft,” says Brook Lloyd of Conran and Partners.

“Restoring an existing building presents its own challenges,” says Neil Ventin, the Health and Safety and Public Relations manager for McAleer Rushe, who are working on the tower. “For instance, we are completely demolishing the lift shaft piece-by-piece, then it will have to be redesigned and rebuilt to modern standards and to meet modern technology.” They are currently clearing the former student digs to make way for the open plan apartments that will replace them, and while the floors, internal walls and the windows will be replaced, much of the fabric of the building is protected and will remain.

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“We are saving and restoring the original balustrades, Crittall doors and glass screens in the communal hallways, and the original concrete will be restored and revealed where it was painted over or damaged over the years,” explains Ventin.

However, working with a building of such character also brings excitement, explains Redrow’s Managing Director, “Of course it is challenging but it’s not formulaic in the way that a new-build might be. It means we can be more creative and work more with the area around us.”

That inspiration is embodying in some of the apartments’ finer details, such as bathroom basins designed to match the curve of the Barbican buildings’ balustrades, and the same terrazzo and brass elements that are used within the Barbican Arts Centre.

It has also made for much larger apartments than usual, with some one-bed flats covering 87 square metres, compared to a typical 50 metres for a regular new build.

With such care and attention it’s clear that this legendary London landmark will live on for at least another half-century, while Conran will breathe new life into the apartments without turning them into bland “new-build” show homes. It’s a rare chance to buy a piece of Britain’s architectural and design legacy – and one that comes with a whole neighbourhood and cultural playground in place, too. It’s hard to imagine a less sterile antidote to your average new-build city pad. I’m sure Chamberlain, Powell and Bon would approve.

Prices from £650,000, www.blaketower.com

ALISON TYLER

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George Clarke’s Amazing Sheds

Today I headed to London’s Excel Centre for THE exhibition that tackles home building, extending, improving and developing.

I was meeting architect and self-build enthusiast George Clarke, who even in his 40s, has an energy and enthusiasm for architecture and design that is infectious and inspiring.

His TV series, Amazing Spaces, charts crazy, brave souls creating crazy, brave living spaces out of everything from shipping containers, to aeroplane nose cones and from tree houses to caravans…

Having designed his own bespoke shed in his garden and a holiday retreat from a retro caravan, George has plenty of experience and approaches these projects with as much diligence as he would any home-build. Because of this, the result is always a highly crafted, cleverly planned and designed space that looks beautiful – even if it is in a pared-back, industrial way.

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Which brings me to his latest venture, with his design partner William Hardie, George Clarke’s Amazing Sheds – pre-built, insulated, wood and then steel-clad sheds, with bifold and French doors, and modular, plywood interior panelling. Each one comes with, electricity, lighting, a pull-down table and fold out sofa – how you customise it from there on is up to you. Options include a wood-burner, sink, stools, shelving, and even a mini bar – and they’re working on more variations as I type. To look at they are awesome, functional, practical, minimal, and cool. The shape is of a traditional shed, but the style looks more like a shipping container.

George-amazing-shed

“I just felt like none of the garden studios on the market were enough fun,” George tells me, as we are sitting inside one of his hip homes. “You can either spend 80 grand on something with LED lighting and a hot tub, or five grand on what’s really a glorified shed that will be freezing in winter.”

Having watched a mini revolution over the past decade, as more and more of us have turned to flexible working and felt the squeeze of the housing crisis and recession, George spotted the growing market for affordable, and crucially, stylish and functional, garden living space that could be used in a flexible way. “It might be somewhere for Granny to hang out in the day enjoying the garden and then become more of a teenage punk band studio in the evening,” one of his sales team tells me.

And it’s this playfulness that George is keen to grasp. “Something I’ve noticed over the years is that lots of people have quite boring houses, pained magnolia and not very interesting, but in their gardens, they are willing to be much more eccentric and brave. Perhaps because they don;t have to do any actual building work to the house or because they don’t have to worry about affecting its value if they decorate it in a crazy way, they feel unburdened when it comes to these small outdoor spaces. They are free of all those worries and want to have some fun.”

bigshedlanding

But I can’t help feeling one of his sales team has hit the nail on the head when I ask him what response he’s been getting from the crowd at GDL. “When people hear that they don’t need planning permission for this, and that there are no building works or costs – they are really excited. And they love the flexibility of the customisation – they can make it personal but they don’t have to do anything themselves, all the hard decisions have already been made.”

www.amazingsheds.com

ALISON TYLER