Private House, Rowe Lane, London, Hackney

Introduction

This project was inspired by the spirit of the Californian Case Study houses and the simplicity of Japanese domestic architecture. The architect, Marcus Lee of FLACQ, had always had an interest in timber-framed structures applied to small scale residential developments combined with an environmentally responsible approach to building. Some years ago Lee, with his partner, who works for Arup Associates, built a timber-framed house for his family in Highbury. This new house occupies a back garden plot in Hackney and was built with Lee acting as his own project manager.

 

Building description

The living spaces are largely open plan so as visually to connect the front courtyard to the back garden. The kitchen, with its long work top bar, links the split floor level, separates the living and working areas and functions as the building’s reception and family hub. The high levels of transparency at ground level contrast with more enclosed spaces on the upper levels, reached by a timber staircase. On the first floor, partitions between the two bathrooms, the main bedroom and the guest room follow the lines of the beamed roof. By closing different sliding doors, each bathroom can become en-suite with a bedroom. The top of the house, under the slope of the pitched roof, is both an office and a long, inter-connecting ‘dorm’ for their three children.

To reach the beds, which are raised on a dais above adult head-height, the children climb up ladder-like shelves. One of the advantages of the timber frame system is that the walls are not load-bearing and can be re-arranged in the future allowing the house to accommodate changing family requirements.

The external rainscreen cladding, window and door frames are all of cedar, the roof covering is of cedar planks and the balcony is constructed of Douglas fir, all of which give subtle variations in tone. Natural materials, including flax and latex-impregnated wood fibreboard, provide insulation. The ground floor is covered with slate; upper floors are lined with plywood/timber and carpeted. All floors have under-floor heating. Storage and service areas are located around the perimeter of the building, forming a buffer to the party walls and maximising space within.

 

Materials and method of construction

Flexibility and buildability were the key criteria in the design. The architect and Arup, the structural engineer, evolved a bespoke timber frame kit whose modular approach facilitated a fast build programme. The frame is fabricated out of Siberian larch glulam posts and beams connected by patented stainless steel connections designed by Gordon Cowley of Cowley Timberwork. The timber frame is exposed to express the structure.

Environmental credentials are high with a timber pellet boiler heating the house, adjacent tree foliage providing natural shading and cooling achieved through cross ventilation. Solar water heating tubes are being added to the southwest roof pitch. Ultimately, the entire structure can be demounted and recycled.

Completion Date:

2007

Year Published:

August 2008

Building Type:

Domestic house

Location:

Hackney, London

Country:

England

Architect:

Marcus Lee of FLACQ

Structural Engineer:

Arup

Client:

Private

Main Contractor:

Martin Hayward

Timber Frame & Connections:

Cowley Timberwork

Timber Element & Species:

Siberian larch glulam frame Cedar external cladding, roof covering, windows and doors.

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