Independent developer Solidspace and Stirling Prize-winning architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris announce the completion of their long-standing collaboration: 81-87 Weston Street, a new mixed-use, mid-rise building in Southwark. Eight spacious, multi-level apartments have been stacked in a tessellated arrangement above a generous ground floor commercial space. The plot at numbers 81-87 Weston Street is a gap site south of the Thames and close to London Bridge. It was originally occupied by an old warehouse building, which once functioned as Solidspace’s office. The rear wall of the warehouse served as a boundary to Guy Street Park to the south. It has been preserved and integrated into the new building as a record of changes to the area over the years.
The architecture of the local area is varied, characterized by new developments such as The Shard built in amongst more ubiquitous mid-rise Victorian warehouse buildings. The external appearance of the new building aims to reflect Southwark’s historical fabric whilst asserting the building’s unique spatial arrangement. Solidspace, led by architect-turned-developer Roger Zogolovitch, has a reputation for building high-quality homes which prioritize volume, light and character.
The Solidspace model involves taking infill sites and building mid-rise, arranging the main social spaces of each residential unit - those for eating, living and working - over half levels on either side of a double-height space. The eight apartments of two and three bedrooms are arranged in two staggered blocks, three apartments in one and five in the other, with a stair and lift core running up the middle of each cluster. This intelligent design ensures that all the apartments have a split section, are dual aspect and benefit from both north and south light.
The mass of the building steps up and away from the adjacent buildings on Weston Street to preserve the neighbors’ rights to light. In keeping with the diverse architecture of the neighborhood, the block is also given variation by way of the fenestration: the interconnected volumes of the apartments inside are expressed externally by way of large L or T-shaped window openings that permit glimpses of the split-level spaces within. The windows are set into deep reveals, and further surface relief is given by terraces set into the stepped roofline and by the large pre-cast balconies which cantilever out from the elevation. The envelope of the building is a skin of hand-finished Wienerberger bricks in a light, creamy-grey tone which reflects the color and texture of the structural concrete shell behind. These bricks, with the anodized aluminum windows, reference the warehouse aesthetic of many of the adjacent buildings. The window spandrel panels have a vertical bar detail which reflects the design of the balcony balustrading - which is also of anodized aluminum.
Inside, the apartments are all unique, whilst demonstrating the same approach: they are split across several floors and centered around an open-plan, double-height space which contains the internal circulation and forms the main heart of the home. Each multi-level apartment is flooded with light from either a large full-height window or, in the case of the apartments in the center of the two blocks, by rooflights.
The social spaces - living, kitchen, dining and study areas - are placed in this fluid central volume, separated by stairs and not doors, with more cellular bedrooms located above, below or adjacent. The apartments interlock vertically and horizontally to allow for both two and three-bedroom layouts. The main entrance to each is on upper floor (for those with two bedrooms), or middle floor (for three-bedroom apartments) and leads first into the large kitchen and dining space. Living areas are located on the south side of the building in the lower part of the same open-plan space, with access to a large roof terrace or balcony. In the upper part of the social space, also overlooking the park to the south, there is a dedicated area for homeworking. Bedrooms are located on the lower floor of each apartment, and the three-bedroom apartment has an extra upper floor to accommodate the master bedroom suite. With the apartments arranged over several half levels, all floors have secondary entrances to the communal stair for fire escape purposes; this also gives the potential for one of the lower floor bedrooms to be let out as a discrete unit with its own bathroom and “front door”.
81-87 Weston Street is built of in situ concrete. Due to the shape and size of the large window apertures, a traditional column and slab structure was not viable, so the building has a structural concrete shell, cast using traditional timber shutters of rough-sawn Douglas fir, the plank marked surfaces giving a strong patina to the interior. The stair cores have a smooth matt concrete finish with expressed joints. In contrast, the apartment and office interiors incorporate self-finished materials to complement the concrete, and give a warm, handcrafted feel. The solid oak windows are combined with extensive joinery - workspace desks, bedroom storage, library shelving and timber linings to the internal stair - finished in either oak or walnut. The apartments are “buy to live” not “buy to rent”, and home buyers have the opportunity to specify finishes to imprint their home.
The ground-floor office space consists of one single open-plan room which covers the entire southern part of the building footprint, with smaller meeting room and ancillary spaces tucked into the northern part of the plan, between the apartment cores. Like the apartments, the office is self-finished in board-marked concrete, the vast soffit and structural beams giving a sculptural effect. To the western end of the space, a large circular hole is punched into the soffit, bringing daylight in and offering views into the tree canopy of the adjacent park.