The project Shepherdess Walk is a new residential development in central London, located near to Old Street roundabout, on the border of Shoreditch, London’s technology hub and design district of Clerkenwell. Situated at the corner of Shepherdess Walk and Wenlock Street, the project mediates between the different historical conditions and formal qualities of the site to propose an unapologetically contemporary project for a terrace of houses and an apartment building with a strong sense of place. Shepherdess Walk has a rich historical heritage of terraced housing and fragments of the continuous Georgian frontages are still visible despite the heavy bomb damage suffered during the Second World War. The project draws on this historical fabric and reinstates three terraced houses on Shepherdess Walk in a contemporary reinterpretation of the type. Gentle variations of the façades enable a subtle closure of the street towards the adjacent park, giving both orientation to the open space from within the building and clarification of the boundaries of the streetscape.
This slight folding also echoes the geometry of the adjacent Georgian terrace, reinforcing the historical identity and character of the street beyond the boundaries of the project. Facing on to Wenlock Street, the first house folds again more sharply asserting its presence towards the south of Shepherdess Walk and opening the angle of the site towards a second apartment building. This shift in scale between the terraced houses and the apartment block generates a vivid urban juxtaposition that reinforces the presence and identity of the corner in the neighborhood. The apartment building rises in scale beyond the houses to stitch the development into the context of bigger scale post-war housing blocks which extend beyond. A slight folding of the façade alignment signifies an ending to Wenlock Street and allows for a clear articulation between the different scales. Towards the rear, the apartment building steps to allow for light and air in the courtyard and to ensure diagonal views from within. A cornice caps the building with a strong horizontal emphasis that is carried upwards on two setback volumes. Both buildings are clad in a brick that was chosen to reflect the patinated materiality of the surroundings, once again stitching the development into its context.
Slight variations to the pointing of the brickwork allow for a horizontal banding to the apartment building façade, directing the gaze along the depth of the street and marking an articulation in the bulk of the building. Deep window reveals emphasize the threshold between the intimacy of the interior spaces and the street giving a sense of weight and presence to the buildings. In collaboration with Solidspace, a split-level section was developed which was applied to both houses and apartments. This configuration allows for the juxtaposition of rooms with different usages around double-height connected spaces, offering a sense of spatial generosity and continuity. The complexity of the section is not immediately apparent from the exterior with only hints given by the large-scale windows to the presence of the double height spaces. The split-level arrangement introduced a strong potential for flexibility for the apartments, allowing for possible subdivisions within each unit with multiple access to the stairwell. This flexibility allows for a possible fragmentation of scale and an evolution of use through time to meet the demands of multiple occupancy, of children growing up, of partial rental of the unit, of working from home or just varying use of the different rooms.
All internal spaces have been developed using a palette of raw materials, plaster, timber, concrete brass and steel which are designed to patinate with use, giving each space a specific and unique character which will develop through time. Handrails and ironmongery have been designed to offer a sensual tactile quality, using hand crafted traditional materials such as solid walnut and brass. Every dwelling has an exterior space with a variety of specific qualities; the houses have rear walled gardens which echo the surrounding Georgian types, and the apartments have a diversity of exterior spaces which open up to spectacular views at the top of the building, incorporating views of London into the building.
Statement from Roger Zogolovitch, Creative Director, Solidspace Ltd
Solidspace continues to experiment with new forms of development on ‘gap’ sites. When Jean-Paul Jaccaud and Tanya Zein approached us to help them make a project in London, we were delighted to support and assist them in their ambition to make new housing using the Solidspace brand. We started with the endless searching for the right parcel of land. We looked, we sketched, we assessed and we appraised probably close to a dozen different sites. In this process we managed to understand Tanya and Jean –Paul, their views and ambitions better, testing the various development models.
It took persistence to keep the enthusiasm going with each opportunity we examined. It took determination not to allow the inevitable bidding results of second, third or fourth place not to wear us down. We discovered the Shepherdess Walk site late in 2011 and won the bid for the site; always a time for celebration. The process began with design iteration and explanation of how the Solidspace split section approach to housing could be applied to the wider parameters of the site.
With a supportive planning approach from Hackney Borough Council and the intelligent input of the professionals the project progressed and design developed. The completion of a project of this quality could not have happened without the dedication of the contractors Rooff. Tanya and Jean-Paul were able to take the lead, to express both the complexity and the excitement of making homes around a volumetric and split plan. They have maintained a clear and precise palette of materials that sharpens the focus on the space created both from within for the user and without for the city.
Whilst quality development is much desired for our overcrowded city centres it is rare for it to be delivered so passionately, with such elegance and executed with such care. This small infill development of eight units is, for Solidspace, a demonstration of a consistent approach of making enduring and beautiful additions to the City. This approach needs to be enjoyed and endorsed.