Apollo Studios is a former piano factory in Kentish Town, converted to office and residential use in the 1980’s. Following an invited design competition, Southstudio were appointed to convert a first floor office space to residential use. The brief was to create a flexible living environment for a working family with three young children and a live-in nanny. They had previously lived in a terraced house, and found the living dynamic over three floors did not suit their needs. Apollo Studios is an experiment in a more integrated lifestyle, with each space used to its maximum benefit and treated as a sub-area within a larger environment, rather than as discreet rooms. Entrances at each end of the plan allow for flexibility of layout, and to create a central living area at the heart of the home. Sleep / work / study / service areas are arranged off this, and can be closed down via sliding screens, or opened up to function as one extended space. The dual aspect allows cross ventilation, while the exposed thermal mass of concrete ceiling and brick walls helps to stabilize extremes of temperature.
The existing shell had good ceiling heights, exposed brick external walls, and large ‘Crittall’ windows. These finishes are expressed, with new interventions defined by choice of material and clearly articulated at junctions. White paint on the ceiling and beams was sandblasted to expose the underlying concrete, and service runs were made via exposed metal conduit. The new room layout was defined by partition walls in white brick, treated as ‘positive’ elements to imply mass and volume, whilst providing bright reflective surfaces towards the center of the plan. Formed in MDF with a black gloss finish, a central services bulkhead runs from the internal access door via a corridor, before transforming to become a positive element in the main living space, with the junction articulated by hidden strip lights.
Built-in furniture is made up of discreet elements formed in birch ply, bracketed by white brick returns, while a dark-stained parquet floor unites the spaces. Bed platforms in the childrens rooms are formed from scaffold tubes, freeing up valuable floor area for storage and play, while the large sliding door in the living room functions as a projector screen.
A generative reference for the design was Aldo Van Eyck’s Arnhem Pavilion, with it’s ambiguous and mysterious volumes and passages. By coincidence, the original conversion of Apollo Studios had been carried out by Van Eyck's daughter Tess, in partnership with Julyan Wickham.
The design process was deliberately open and evolving as work on site progressed, with close collaboration between client, architect and contractor. Decisions were made on an iterative basis, with the original design concept being a point of reference, not dogma, at all stages.
Posted 25th January 2016
Contractor: Fein Hughes
Status: Completed 2015
Photography: Luke White