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Six Columns, Southwark

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

31/44 Architects takes 2024 RIBA London Small Project of the Year for an efficient and inventive design part inspired by Peter Aldington's Turn End in Buckinghamshire

Six Columns.
Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives

2024 RIBA London Award
2024 RIBA London Small Project of the Year

Six Columns, Southwark
31/44 Architects for Sam and Will Burges
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 164m2

Six Columns is a house for one of the founders of the 31/44 Architects practice, along with his partner and their two children, designed to meet the family’s changing needs over many years. It is set in patches of gardens acquired from neighbours – joined together, they created a plot worthy of a family home that completes a row of semi-detached houses in the leafy neighbourhood. The jury was impressed by the design’s efficiency as much as its inventive, sophisticated use of space and materials. A single air-source heat pump also provides all the house requires for heating and washing, with bills a fraction of typical running costs.

  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
12345

As the name suggests, there are six columns on the front and rear elevations: ‘The practice has an affection for columns,’ the architect explained. The jury approached the house past the column that stands in front of its white-veined, dark green marble wall. A single-storey volume to the left breaks up the two-storey pitched volume to the right, and the entrance is at the junction between the two. From this point in the hallway, the eye is drawn to the living, dining and kitchen area that forms the heart of the house. From this space, it is possible to read all aspects of the building: gardens, circulation, living area and private bedrooms.

Exposed timber beams and simple robust timber panels are used throughout the ground floor. In the living room, a clerestory is created through glazing between the chunky plywood beam ends, admitting light and maintaining privacy from the street. Pencil marks from the contractors are all left as a sign that this is a live construction and a sketch in built form.

  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
  • Six Columns.
    Six Columns. Credit: Building Narratives
1234

At the top, a bright green stepladder stair opens into an attic room in a raised box on the rear roof, originally planned as a room for books, but now occupied by one of the children. The house is designed to evolve as the family’s needs change – ‘It’s a keeper,’ the pair told the jury, having built it themselves by appointing subcontractors directly.

Architectural references abound – a conversation with architect Peter Aldington at his house Turn End in Buckinghamshire, built in the 1960s, is discussed as one inspiration for the informality of this design. Remarkable on the ground floor is an accomplished use of a sliding screen between the kitchen and living room spaces – an innovative touch that adds an element of surprise. Where masonry exists it is painted white and the floors throughout the living areas are of terrazzo.

The design hinges on the incorporation of existing trees, such as a mature sycamore to the rear of the house which forms the main focus of a courtyard. The other courtyard displays a quality reminiscent of a Derek Jarman film, with gravel and water features, fire grill and sparse planting. The architecture creates a harmony with the external spaces created in the landscape. A feast for the eyes at every turn.

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

Credits

Contractor Atlant Construction

Structural engineer Price and Myers

Landscape architect Aarde

Credit: 31-44 Architects
Credit: 31-44 Architects
Credit: 31-44 Architects
Credit: 31-44 Architects
Credit: 31-44 Architects
Credit: 31-44 Architects

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