img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2939831959404383&ev=PageView&noscript=1")

Southwark House Renovation, south London

Valuable learning experience of VATRAA’s environmental and spatial refit is helping it reinvent a typology

Ex-council house transformation.
Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson

2024 RIBA London Award

Southwark House Transformation,
VATRAA for private client
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 80m2

This transformation of a 76m2 former council house is discreet on the outside, leaving the surprise for the inside, which is a story of space, light, and materials. The project was designed for a single client who loves to travel and the result reflects this in a home of distinctive character and warmth. A tight budget called for creative solutions – the jury praised the way the architects displayed such aptitude in the home’s environmental and spatial transformation. This work, they felt, offered lessons for many similar houses of this type.

  • Ex-council house transformation.
    Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Ex-council house transformation.
    Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Ex-council house transformation.
    Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Ex-council house transformation.
    Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson
1234

The jury approached the house from the main street of terraces built in the 1970s. The estate consists of mostly two-storey buildings with greenways and squares. Externally, the house has only a few clues that an architect has had a hand in its reinvention, but once inside, the light, spacious and generous interior is quickly revealed.

The design team was selected from a local shortlist; this was the first time the client had employed an architect. An extension was discounted early on as too expensive and unnecessary. Instead, the focus was on sustainability, and practical solutions to give new life to a standard council house typology. The result demonstrates that, if fully embraced, the constraints and specifics of the project can lead to surprising and inventive solutions. For example, heating is provided by the estate’s district heating system and the hot water cylinder is used for an airing cupboard with slatted doors releasing hot air into the living area.

Reducing waste and minimising cost required a methodical approach. The architects first investigated the existing structure for redundancy, finding opportunities to remove unnecessary parts while keeping any new additions to a minimum. They then stripped the design back to its essentials. The original structural joists are now exposed to resurrect the spirit of the old house, bringing authenticity and a sense of time into the design, while also increasing the ceiling height. By opening the entrance lobby to the pitched roof, a tall volume now occupies the core of the house, making a tight space feel grand and inviting.

  • Ex-council house transformation.
    Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Ex-council house transformation.
    Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Ex-council house transformation.
    Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Ex-council house transformation.
    Ex-council house transformation. Credit: Jim Stephenson
1234

To highlight the qualities of space, light and texture, finishes are limited to three complementary materials. White painted ceiling joists and whitewashed oak flooring are tied together by a plaster that comes alive in natural light. The bespoke solid oak furniture completes the composition through warm textures and crafted details. Outside, large CorTen (weathering steel) planters and shrubs create a sense of enclosure and privacy screening for the interiors, whilst adding to the green space on the estate.

The jury understood this project as a valuable learning experience. By the architects’ own account, it has led to other commissions along similar lines, where they are being invited to think outside the ownership boundary.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here.

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credit: VATRAA
Credit: VATRAA
Credit: VATRAA
Credit: VATRAA
Credit: VATRAA

Latest articles

Webinar: Addressing Onsite Safety using Fall Protection Systems

  1. Products

Webinar: Addressing Onsite Safety using Fall Protection Systems

PiP Design for Sustainability Webinar 2024

  1. Products

PiP Design for Sustainability Webinar 2024