Matheson Whitely acted as both architect and developer in the mixed-use conversion of a dilapidated industrial building in east London, adding an extra storey to create two floors of residential space above a pair of workshops. The building sits on Sprowston Mews, an unadopted private lane that is predominantly occupied by car repair workshops and other light-industrial uses, but which has recently seen a number of residential developments.
The architects formed a partnership with prospective residents to acquire the building, secure the necessary consents and funding, and deliver the project. “An early commitment was made to retain a mix of uses on the site, continuing the history of the building as a place of production”, says the architect. One workshop provides studio space for designer Max Frommeld, who acted as a development partner and now lives in the building.
The render system is applied to existing brickwork, and in the newly built second floor, to insulation over the OSB-faced structural timber frame, with a breather membrane mounted internally behind a plasterboard lining.
The existing first floor and new set-back second floor extension provide four flats with an average floor area of 90 square metres. The flats are arranged around a tiled central staircase which incorporates an existing concrete stair. Timber frame construction was used for the new second floor to minimise additional loading on the existing brick and steel structure. On the interior of the upper flats this timber structure is exposed as aceiling array of redwood beams and blocking.
Each flat has south-facing living and kitchen areas which face onto the mews. Bedrooms are to the rear, overlooking a quiet, shared back garden. The flats are planned around a central room which can be used for living, additional sleeping space, or work. The two flats on the west side of the building also receive daylight from a central lightwell.
At first floor the front elevation comprises two paired openings on either side of a central projecting ‘pilaster’ containing downpipes and expressing the building’s internal organisation. The vertical pair of openings on the western side form an external loggia.
External surfaces are wholly coated with a roughcast cementitious render. Large format aggregate is used in the render mix, “lending a textural quality that distinguishes the block from its neighbours while serving as a repairing coat to the existing walls and concealing thick insulation to the timber-framed roof extension”, says the architect. In addition the material palette includes powder-coated aluminium and softwood composite sliding doors and galvanised steel handrails to the loggia, and powder-coated steel entrance doors.