Casa nel cimitero di Highgate | The Plan
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Casa nel cimitero di Highgate

Eldridge Smerin Architects

Casa nel cimitero di Highgate
By Phyllis Richardson -

Most building projects have obstacles to overcome, but in the case of this jewel-like minimalist creation by Eldridge Smerin in London, the problems were daunting even before they put pencil to paper. Firstly, there was an existing modern house on the site that was in fairly good order and designed by a well-respected British modernist architect, John Winter. Secondly the site is on a steep hill. It is confined, less than
150 sq m. The boundary cannot be expanded because the project is located in one of London’s most strictly protected conservation areas, being one of only three dwellings allowed inside the walls of the famed Highgate Cemetery, the final resting place of a host of British historic figures and home to probably the finest collection of Victorian funerary architecture in England.
London architects Eldridge Smerin approached all of these challenges with a combination of respect for tradition and inspired vision. Before taking down the existing house, they consulted its architect. Winter generously agreed to the demolition saying that “there would be no hard feelings so long as what they built was better than what they demolished”. The planners also approved their design on the principle that it should make a significant contribution to London’s architectural heritage. This it does, not by being just another glass box, but by using planes, light, shadow and material with respect for form and an eye for new possibilities.
The new house is a glass and concrete volume that recalls the modernist model but shows wonderful innovation. It makes the most of the steep site by way of an audacious cantilever. A pair of beams running from the party wall on the north side of the building and supported by four columns provide stability for the concrete slab that stretches another 4 metres beyond. This structure creates two floors of living space above the ground floor that seem to hover in the midst of grand mature trees and old vine-covered...

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