Lens House is Alison Brooks Architect’s transformation of a five storey 19th century villa in north London for a client involved in photography and design. The project included the restoration of the derelict house and a series of major interventions. Conceived as a series of large apertures connected by large trapezoidal planes, these openings capture light throughout the day, draw the garden into the house, and frame precise views of the spectacular 300 year-old walnut tree. A low single storey volume wraps around brick walls at the side of the house to create a home office and roof terrace, while the second tapered volume extends out at the back to expand the first floor living room. Each plane of the scheme is either fully glazed or fully solid, there are no punched windows.
This approach creates an architecture without mass and weight, like the folded surfaces of origami where both roof and wall planes are one material. Where the side and rear projections converge, seven surfaces come together at one point. On the garden side, the building rests lightly on the ground with undercut walls to avoid the walnut tree’s roots.
Inside, the roof light geometry funnels light into the workspace throughout the day. A roof terrace cuts into one of the roofs, generating a light reflecting plane and heightening the sense of suspended surfaces. Where the original living room once was, ABA has opened a new double height volume. This draws south light deep into the house.
Like a ‘great hall’ of a medieval building, the void creates a visual connection between the upper floors of the house and kitchen/dining space.
The folded geometries of the extensions continue into the house to become surfaces punctuated by steel fireplaces, a cantilevered kitchen and other ‘inhabited walls’; a variety of framed settings for modern family life..