Take it from the top

Words:
Eleanor Young

Though rarely used, top down construction has proved just the job for a mixed-use development on the site of a legendary recording studio

The glass bricks and expressed steel frame of Eglon House are intended as a reference to Maison de Verre in 1930s Paris.
The glass bricks and expressed steel frame of Eglon House are intended as a reference to Maison de Verre in 1930s Paris.

Glass bricks are rather passé. So passé, in fact, that they are historic. Think of the remarkable Maison de Verre in Paris, designed in the 1930s by architect Bernard Bijvoet and furniture designer Pierre Chareau. Its classic facade has been recreated in north London on the site of another legend – the Mayfair recording studio that played host to Tina Turner and Pink Floyd among others.

But Eglon House, on a landlocked site in a mews off Primrose Hill in London, has another claim to fame, as an example of an innovative and rarely used ‘top down’ method of construction. Instead of forming the perimeter basement walls with traditional reinforced underpinning techniques, the existing ground slab has been broken up, and the site has been peppered with contiguous piles around the edges to form the basement walls and to support the new superstructure. The piles are just 150mm apart and close up to the party walls. The new ground slab ties the heads of the piles together, eliminating the need for temporary supports.

This also ensured there was always access onto site and allowed the contractor to dig down to form the basement and build up to form the superstructure, significantly speeding up the programme. Structural engineer Symmetrys says this method is often dismissed because of loss of area, but it is a quick way of construction that avoids many complications on party walls and temporary works.

  • In this case the 'maison' is behind a steel frame.
    In this case the 'maison' is behind a steel frame. Credit: Joas Souza
  • The top floor of the offices has its own roof terrace, looking over the roofs of its neighbours.
    The top floor of the offices has its own roof terrace, looking over the roofs of its neighbours.
  • Industrial luxury is the style of the residential interiors.
    Industrial luxury is the style of the residential interiors. Credit: Joas Souza
  • Inside.
    Inside. Credit: Joas Souza
  • Living, dining, bathing space.
    Living, dining, bathing space. Credit: Joas Souza
  • Copper bathtub harks back though happily it doesn't have to be filled from water boiled on the range.
    Copper bathtub harks back though happily it doesn't have to be filled from water boiled on the range. Credit: Joas Souza
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The building, designed by Camden based Chassay Last Architects, is a hybrid of concrete slabs and concrete and steel columns – much of it expressed with great rigour in the facade and interiors. The two blocks, one residential, one office, sit opposite one another across a simple courtyard with a lush green wall. An exo-grid of steel stands proud of the residential building with its expansive glass, polished concrete floors and marble, while the views from the offices are strictly controlled, even as glass bricks allow filtered light to flood in. 


 

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