vogue | vacancies | voice

“Maison Colbert” London

May 28, 2024

Maison Colbert –

As featured in Vogue

By Chris Dyson Architects

The site is in an old industrial area of London and comprises a terrace of five, four-storey houses. The houses were built in the early 1900s as part of a slum clearance initiative and currently form part of the conservation area. The houses are simply detailed, robust brick buildings, described as ‘mean dwellings’ by art historian Sir Nickolaus Pevsner in his series ‘Buildings of England’. When acquired by the client, they were uninhabited and had fallen into a dilapidated state. However, some of their original features remained and were to be incorporated into the final design.

A new basement was dug to create a high floor to ceiling gallery space. At basement, ground and first floors, we used composite floors, exposed and painted white, to create large, column free spaces and give a stripped back aesthetic.  This solution allowed large spans and future flexibility. The commercial space has a bright, industrial atmosphere with exposed concrete, steels and services. Voids and green courtyards with large expanses of glazing act as light wells bringing daylight down into the double-height basement. This will become a business hub for people working in the creative industries and has the potential to be opened to the public for events such as talks, film screenings and exhibitions.

A key element of the scheme is the restoration of the retained facades and shopfronts to enhance the streetscape and preserve the quintuple rhythm of the terrace. New shop fronts are fitted, reinterpreting their original pattern in a contemporary manner, and on the upper storeys, timber sash windows to match the original.

The roof has been extended along the pitch of the existing and distinctive black zinc dormers added, following the rhythm of the current fenestration. The rear façade is opened to a partly glazed, partly solid extension and a reconstructed outbuilding.

The material palette for the project is contemporary, yet draws from the vernacular language of the area. The roof extension is slate and the dormers clad in zinc. The new build to the rear is brick. However, this is painted white, clearly delineating between new and old. A combination of opaque and transparent glass is used to provide privacy for the inhabitants and likewise to their neighbours.

The residential space, one single bed and one large family home, spreads over the first and fourth storeys. Green walls, terraces and views of the courtyards below, provide green oases in this dense urban environment.

“It’s like a Tardis. Architecturally, there’s a separation between the main body of the building, the staircase rising up against the back wall, and then a very modern glazed enclosure. The new volume hangs from the rear elevation like a rucksack. It’s quite diagrammatic – the new spaces serve the rooms in front and the basement below. It allows for a natural division between work and pleasure, between the gallery, studio and offices and then the home above.” Chris Dyson


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