The Artist's House by Gumuchdjian Architects
London's Kensington may not be the obvious place to start searching for a fine example of the International style in which to shoot January's (W*142) fashion shoot, 'Rough with the Smooth', yet this recent project by Gumuchdjian Architects proves that the well-to-do district is also home to some beautiful modernist gems.
href="/gallery/architecture/artists-house-fashion-location/17052242">See more of this modernist gem tucked away in London's Kensington
Originally a 1950s modernist terrace built on a bombsite, the house was recently bought by a couple with children, with plans to be transformed into their family home. The clients worked closely with London-based Philip Gumuchdjian Architects and his team in not just restoring the house to its former modernist glory, but also in accentuating even further its clean and pared down aesthetic. 'They had the desire to build something to live in and enjoy rather than something just to show. It was a very down-to-earth approach, in a way, a true Bauhaus sensibility,' says the architect.
The house was painted white with matt black metal window frames and block colour red interior elements (such as the doors), while excess ornamentation and detailing added on by previous owners was removed, even though the renovation was a challenge as the concrete floors and masonry walls didn’t leave much space for services.
The materials inside were also kept simple and straightforward – white plastered walls with timber for some areas, like the floor, the winter study and the staircase. Meanwhile curved glass is used for the extra study added on the rear façade, allowing the house to orientate even more towards the garden.
Avoiding modernist associations with austerity and ascetic spaces, the architects reworked the interior arrangement, aiming for 'intimacy, privacy, conviviality and contemplation'. The space would also be used as a studio for the owners, who – being in the arts and design field – would be spending a large amount of time working from home.
In order to open the house up, the interior layout had to be rearranged. 'Thankfully the structure had the great benefit of being unusually wide – about 9m,' says Gumuchdjian. 'This allowed much flexibility.' A freestanding brand new sculptural staircase was placed at the building's heart, around which, a series of workspaces and public areas were arranged – a double height living area, a winter study and an office. The home's focal point is undoubtedly the ground level kitchen, featuring large openings towards the garden and a long top mirror that reflects back to the house’s richly green outdoor space.
Recently winning the RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize 2010, the Kensington Artists’ House earned its much-deserved recognition. 'It was a process of proper dialogue and the result is down to this meticulous dialogue with a very engaged client. If it has been well received, it is largely because it is a result of a great collaboration with them,' explains Gumuchdjian.
And it is not the first time the architects win the prestigious distinction. In 2002, they won the same award for their Think Tank boathouse in Ireland, while the practice's portfolio is already jam packed with high profile work; from collaborating with Shigeru Ban for the design of the new Pompidou in Metz to the Hauser & Wirth flagship gallery in London (working on an original Lutyens building in collaboration with Annabelle Selldorf) and a number of education buildings.
'What is key for us, is tuning our response to each new commission, both culturally and environmentally,' concludes Gumuchdjian. 'And this house was especially tailored to these clients.'
Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).
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