The project is a collaboration between Crispin Kelly’s Baylight and Robin Lee Architecture involving the conversion of a former warehouse building in Bayswater, west London, to a single dwelling arranged across two floors. In addition one floor of the building was converted to an office for Baylight.
The project was seen as an opportunity to develop the principles of adaptation and conversion of existing buildings for residential use. Central to the approach was a process of uncovering and discovery to understand the essential logic of the building. This enabled judgements as to how new structures, elements and finishes could be incorporated to create a sense of continuity with the existing building to allow the new residential interior to be imbued with qualities and atmospheres both appropriate to and inherent within the existing building.
Removal of interior finishes revealed an existing structure comprised of a loadbearing steel frame set within and detached from a rectangular outer shell of masonry from an earlier period, which attested to historical transformation of the building. This suggested a strategy of articulating new elements as hierarchically distinct from the existing structure, however it was important that the building was understood as a single composition, a continuous series of unfolding spaces and experiences rather than a mannered arrangement of new elements set against old.
Bounded on the flanking elevations by existing buildings with narrow light wells the opportunity for daylighting was limited to a small number of windows at each end of the building. The challenge was further compounded by the location of the main access stair at the eastern extremity of the property, which further curtailed access to daylight. These limitations led to qualitative judgments about the atmospheres that could be created within parts of the interior.
At the lower floor of the apartment this led to a purposefully introverted environment dedicated principally to bedrooms. These are conceived of as fluid, enfilade suites with sleeping, dressing and bathroom areas laid out as open, unfolding arrangements of space giving continuity and benefit from the limited daylight and views.
In counterpoint to the introverted character of the lower floor the upper floor was opened volumetrically by removal of steel cross bracing to the pitched roof and by the addition of an extruded linear extension with a continuous facade of full height steel windows giving the living areas an open panoramic aspect to the north.
Roof structure and finishes were raised to allow the primary steel structure to be exposed as an inner armature against a uniform backdrop of clay plaster. Peculiarities inherent in the existing steel frame were exposed with new steel elements connected in a manner consistent with original jointing and junctions. The approach was to extend the logic of the existing structure to create continuity rather than distinction between the original and new elements. In this way layers of building are apparent but cumulatively they create one coherent interior rather than a new interior within an existing one. The upper floor is sheathed in European Birch in pale neutral tone to match the clay plaster walls and ceilings creating a homogenous interior environment.