This modest contemporary house in North London conceals a radical core. Briefed by the client to create a split-level family house in the heart of one of London's notoriously reactionary Conservation Areas, Murray Groves and Adriana Natcheva of Groves Natcheva Architects decided to push the boundaries.
The client was developer, Solid Space, best known for commissioning de Rijke Marsh Morgan's rough-edged but finely wrought 1 Centaur Street apartments in South London. Tasked with taking the same multi-level interior approach, but this time for a single house, Groves Natcheva worked closely with a German system of prefabricated concrete panels to create an intricate series of interlocking interior spaces.
The result is a set of spaces that flow both horizontally and vertically. The architects are at pains to point out that the factory-poured concrete slabs - trucked over from Germany and craned into place - gave them infinite flexibility at the design stage. Swiftly translating the design into three-dimensional form, complete with structural integrity, high insulation performance and the convenience of socket points and wiring ducts all cast into place, the main shell of the house took just four weeks to slot together.
Once the shell was completed, fit-out began, including solar thermal panels and rainwater collection to maximise the house's environmental performance. Inside, the concrete work has been left largely unadorned, paired with naked plaster and subtle colour accents to stress the flow of space, from the high stairwell all the way up to the rooflights, with views down and across into the basement.
The house totals 176 square metres, containing three bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and study, as well as three external terraces and a self-contained one-bedroom flat. All this accommodation is wound into a spiral that threads its way through the concrete walls, with the architect's characteristically clean detailing making for satisfying junctions where walls meet wooden floors, or where banks of built-in cupboards merge into the flowing space.
The house was short-listed for the RIBA London Awards 2010 in April.