Into the woods: Carmody Groarke designs a brick marvel in North London

Into the woods: Carmody Groarke designs a brick marvel in North London

Award-winning London-based architectural practice Carmody Groarke has just completed the practice’s very first ground-up standalone residential scheme – a single-family house on the northern edge of Highgate Wood. Aiming to create something modern that would at the same time celebrate the nearby woods, the architects worked on this landmark project primarily based on the site’s context, views and orientation.

‘In a suburb of typical Edwardian detached houses, a new home of different character was always going to be treated with suspicion,’ say the architects. ‘The form of the house was carefully composed to respond to the proportions of other houses on the street, and brick was chosen as the dominant material to give it coherence and a feeling of longevity within its neighbourhood.’

The new detached building maintains a strong relationship with its context through generous openings, both towards the rear garden and the nearby trees, as well as the sleepy residential street at the front. Formed as a sculptural series of stacked rectangular boxes, which delicately twist and turn, adjusting their direction towards the optimum vistas, the structure is a happy balance between boldness and restraint.    

Carefully set back from the street, the elegant brick volumes create coherence and continuity between the project and its urban surroundings. By complementing its modern form with a finely tuned material palette of exposed, dark, bespoke and handmade Petersen bricks, rich brown smoked oak and off-white travertine floor, the architects ensured a powerful, yet discreet result.

A traditional internal division – fluid, open-plan public spaces on the ground floor and a more conventional layout of four bedrooms and other private areas upstairs – is broken by the house’s centrepiece: a striking triple-height grand hall at the floorplan’s heart. This gesture cunningly separates the house into two wings and turns the visitor’s attention instantly to the outdoors, through a floor-to-ceiling window towards the rear of the site. On the first floor, this hall is lined with an internal balcony that hosts a library and links the building’s two flanking sides. There is a distinct lack of corridors throughout, with circulation served instead by generous halls and in-between areas that promote a sense of comfort and space.    

A dark lap pool is placed on one end of the ground level, faced with large glazed sliding doors. These allow for uninterrupted views of the carefully manicured garden and the woods beyond, leaving this north London home wanting for nothing, even compared to the most idyllic countryside location.

More visuals and the photoshoot at Highgate Wood House can be found in the September 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*210)

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