Wood in architecture
London || UK
WoodBlock House demonstrates a genuine collaboration between architect and client, a chance for experimentation that resulted in domestic joy and Spartan pleasure in every aspect of the finished product. The brief was to create a studio, home and office for UK artist Richards Woods and his family. Woods’ working process requires a large-scale printing workshop where work can be manufactured with adequate space for him and his studio employees. The building had to be designed with the inclusion of an open yard at ground level, to ensure ventilation and ease of access – both essential to Woods’ work process.
From the start designs evolved from extensive conversations with the client, whose own work traverses the boundaries between art, architecture and furniture design in the interplay between the functional and the ornamental. The result was a simple, large workshop and printing studio space on the ground floor, with separate living accommodation above, all characterized by the qualities of timber, good spaces and daylight. The design principles of the scheme can be grouped as follows.
The massing and CLT panel structural system is expressed through the articulation of the façade in relief and choice of cladding.
The building consists of three elements, the ground and first floor housing workshop and main living area, the second floor box of bedrooms with small roof top library on the third floor. The building is positioned slightly away from its neighbors flank wall to include the careful brickwork in its composition.
The home section of the building is south-facing and sits on top of the north-facing studio. The former is horizontally clad painted plywood using a printing technique for which the artist-client is internationally renown; by contrast the studio is clad in unpainted larch.
A simple, generous fenestration specification has been used throughout. Generally there are two types of window – full height, sliding windows to principal living areas, and smaller “punched hole” windows to secondary living spaces such as bedrooms and circulation. All are laminated timber.
The building is a response to the family’s needs, as well as dRMM’s own commitment to sustainability in architecture through the use of engineered timber. Panelized construction was far quicker than an equivalent brick or concrete construction, and since noise, pollution and site traffic are lessened, relations with the neighbors were good throughout.
Apart from being environmentally sound, WoodBlock House also has the unique atmosphere of a house built only in timber and glass, with a sensual quality that has to be seen, touched and smelt to be fully understood. But perhaps its greatest success lies in something even more intangible: the feeling of a building that is in constant use, brought to life through the noisy combination of family, work and play.
Location: London, UK
Client: Richard Woods Studio
Completion: Gross Floor Area: 257 m2
Architects: dRMM Architects
Contractor: Cape Construction
Structural: Timber First
Cost: David Flower
M&E: Michael Popper Associates
Photography: © Alex de Rijke