Church Walk is a new build terrace on one of the oldest roads in Stoke Newington, North London. Previously used for illegal dumping and drug dealing, significantly overlooked at the rear and overshadowed most of the day, this awkward brownfield site posed numerous urban challenges. In this context, the scheme carves out memorable housing at a relatively high density, whilst managing to remain low-rise, neighbourly and enhancing the street.
David Mikhail and Annalie Riches undertook the project as both architect and developer with the aim of providing themselves and their newborn son with a home and three further dwellings which they could rent out. From the outset they wanted to concentrate on a design that would not significantly injure the light and amenity of the neighbours, and would contribute, not detract from the street.
Within the four units, various types of accommodation are provided, with two houses, a flat and a triplex. Residents benefit from a variety of outdoor spaces. In addition to courtyard gardens at the rear, the three generous 10m2 terrace roofs step up in a ziggurat form and orient south to provide an elevated place to enjoy the wider views and the light, as well as an unexpectedly animated and verdant streetscape.
At the heart of each dwelling is a double height family room. It gets good natural light, with windows looking north, plus clerestory glazing at the terrace level above. Living rooms address the street, providing surveillance and security. The rear ‘concertina’ elevation acts both to provide oblique views that prevent overlooking, and also to avoid a potentially overbearing and acoustically reverberant wall to the neighbours.
We inherited a planning permission for a pseudo-traditional suburban scheme and we felt that this was the wrong scheme for this location. Hackney’s restrictions were never clearly stated but required our interpreting a confusing array of diverse documents. To do this we compiled a compliance matrix. We also took our designs around to meet the neighbours. Good idea in general, but not en masse. We felt we were ambushed, and realised there was some serious history here of objection from the Clissold Road residents. At the end of a very long process our first planning application was refused.
We then hired a planning consultant who helped us to communicate with the council’s planning department and let us concentrate on a design which we were able to demonstrate did not significantly impact on the amenity of the objecting neighbours.
Materials and construction
Materials are intentionally taken from a limited palette, with white oiled Siberian larch, arranged board over board giving a ‘corduroy’ effect, a light buff coloured brick set in a flush white lime mortar giving an homogenous ‘cast’ feel to the street facade, recalling the ubiquitous London stock brickwork of Georgian London, and a large gauge expanded aluminum mesh, finished like the windows in anodized bronze; individually robust materials, but which together with the wildflower roofs, seek to achieve a new delicacy and lightness. At the rear, brick gives way to a much softer and lighter feel, with whitened Siberian Larch taken right down to low brick plinth walls.
Internally the theme of whitened wood and muted shades continues. Instead of the usual shadow-gaps and minimal detailing, here a more robust, traditional architectural language is used, which was considered more suitable for a development; architraves, lined window reveals and internal sills, tall skirting boards and solid wide plank floors, staircases and joinery.
Construction is of simple load bearing concrete block and timber floors and roofs with the minimum use of steel beams for the wider spans.