British practice Carl Turner Architects has reimagined the terrace house on a brownfield site in Brixton. Low energy use, high density, and a flexible plan increase the building’s usability and help future-proof it for changes in occupancy. Photography Tim Crocker.
The Slip House is a prototype development that offers dense, flexible urban living. Built on a vacant rear site, in a street of traditional Victorian terrace houses, the building provides a model for stylish, affordable and low-energy housing. It is a new form of terrace house, in tune with the existing street grain but a world apart in aesthetics.
‘Making good buildings requires more than good ideas,’ reflects design architect and owner Carl Turner. ‘It takes stamina, resilience, and determination often bordering on blind optimism, and never more so than when an architect attempts their own home.’
The translucent house is made up of three ‘slipped’ boxes. Each ‘box’, or storey, is aligned to benefit from the movement of the sun and bring as much light as possible to every floor.
The ground floor holds the studio/office and a courtyard to the rear; this could also be used as an apartment completely separate from the rest of the house.
The first floor contains the bedroom/bathroom quarters, and the second floor is a fully open-plan and beautifully bright living/kitchen zone. The topmost ‘floor’ is a screened roof terrace.
By using translucent Linit Panels – vertical glass ‘planks’ – as the exterior material for the house, the architects have maximised light in all areas, while still maintaining the privacy needed.
Brixton in South London was not a predictable location for a house of this nature. Built alongside traditional Victorian houses, the project (which featured on the television series Grand Designs) broke conventions, acting as an instrument for in-house research into sustainable design.
The building is nearly fully self-sufficient. It uses systems such as solar panels, energy piles (heating coils in the foundations), a ground-source heat pump (creating a thermal store beneath the building), a wildflower roof with rainwater collection, mechanical ventilation, and very high levels of insulation. The architects believe (at the time of its build) this is one of the most energy-efficient homes in the UK.
A truly innovative aspect of the project is the secluded roof terrace. The glass cladding continues up to create a high balustrade and screen for this open fourth floor. The architects have maintained the neighbours’ privacy, and that of the house’s inhabitants, yet still managed to gain a good view and extra, usable outdoor space, thanks to the flat roof construction.
In a city as loud and lively as London, Turner believes a home should be a place of tranquillity, so he specified triple glazing, solid floors and side walls to create an acoustic barrier between the inhabitants and the concrete jungle. Going one step further, he has limited noise pollution within the house, too: concrete stairs and floors mean that footsteps in soft-soled shoes are practically silent.
The architects took extra measures to ensure the house was financially and environmentally sustainable, not only for the finished product, but also while it was under construction. For example, the simple open-plan layout ensures that the walls are straightforward to erect. Also, most of the structural components were made offsite, which reduced the local noise pollution a construction project would normally make. The simple orthogonal box forms span the width of the site, so any future developments on neighbouring sites can simply adjoin the blank flanking walls, forming a new terrace of homes.
Also, most of the structural components were made offsite, which reduced the local noise pollution a construction project would normally make. The simple orthogonal box forms span the width of the site, so any future developments on neighbouring sites can simply adjoin the blank flanking walls, forming a new terrace of homes.
Axonometric House Plans
Written by Carl Turner Architects
Project – Slip House, Brixton, London
Photos – Tim Crocker