WoodBlock House is the latest addition to a quiet street off London's bustling Hackney Road that already counts buildings by some of the capitals leading architects, such as Sergison Bates and Caruso St John, among its treasures. Created for artist Richard Woods and his family, it was designed by de Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects (dRMM), helmed by Alex de Rijke, Sadie Morgan and Philip Marsh.
Walking down the street, it is hard to miss the colourful façade of the house, created partly in Woods' signature woodgrain motifs. The dRMM team describes the project as 'a genuine collaboration between architect and client' and the building clearly confirms it. 'Richard came to see dRMM's No One Centaur Street project - a residential block constructed in concrete imprinted with wood,' explains Alex de Rijke. 'There were parallels with his own work and we shared a common interest in making things in timber. We've collaborated a few times since and we have plans for more.'
The architects are known for their design explorations in timber; a perfect fit for Woods, who works with multicoloured floorboard pieces. Some of his bespoke art pieces were incorporated in parts of the house, such as along the staircase and parts of the front and back façade. 'We both work with wood,' adds the artist, 'and I liked the idea of creating a wooden house in the middle of town.'
The project includes a home for the family of four, as well as a north-facing studio and a large-scale printing workshop. It was important for the artist that the design incorporate an open yard at ground level to ensure easy access and plenty of ventilation. Daylight is abundant throughout the home and the living areas spill out to a large south-facing decked terrace. But most importantly, the solid timber feel of the house throughout creates a unique atmosphere where wood is at the same time the home's protagonist, while forming a warm and vibrant backdrop for family life.
Designing in dense Hackney came with its own set of difficulties, such as fitting the work/live program comfortably within the plot. 'The site was a particular challenge,' explains de Rijke. 'We had to respond positively to the brick and concrete context in a different material, i.e. timber, and build in a long, thin slot alongside powerful neighbouring buildings by Sergison Bates and Caruso St John.' As a result, the building is positioned slightly away from its neighbour's flanking wall.
The structure is made out of a CLT panel system, highlighting the architects' commitment to sustainability through the use of engineered timber, which is lighter and quicker to manufacture (it took a little less than a year of construction before the family was able to move in). The cladding - where it is not created by the artist - is unpainted larch.
'I've always admired Richard's work, which looks deceptively simple but treads a knowing line between painting, sculpture and DIY,' says de Rijke. 'His work is inspirational and his family is fun; it all added up to a project we were happy to take on.'