Five Apartments, Kensington
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This contemporary, new-build, residential apartment scheme sits within a quiet cul-de-sac, south of Kensington High Street in Central London. The proposal replaces an existing 20th century ‘art and crafts house’ to the front of the site and a series of large warehouse style buildings to the rear, to create five contemporary apartments over basement to second floor levels. Following an extensive dialogue with the Local Planning Authority, it was agreed the scheme would adopt key references from the immediate context; the neighbouring buildings have strong gable ended facades which have been echoed in our design, celebrating the prevailing rhythm of the street elevation, whilst providing a contemporary interpretation of the surrounding Arts & Crafts context.
The challenging site, enveloped on three sides by the neighbouring buildings, did not allow for perimeter outlook. This constraint represented an opportunity to create a collection of unique living experiences. Nested in a leafy quiet street, the new development offers a well serviced, private, and serene sanctuary in the heart of London. The apartments are distinct, each arranged around different high-quality landscaped atria, terraces, or gardens, which provide bright, open-plan and intimate environments. The layouts are designed to create practical, but also inspiring and joyful spaces in which to live, work and entertain.
This inward facing concept – of a contemporary riad – emerged in response to the planning requirement to protect neighbours’ amenity and create a sense of privacy to all whilst providing an abundance of natural light and amenity space for the new apartments.
Car parking is provided on site within a concealed basement car stacker.
Planning permission was granted at Appeal in 2017.
Rodic Davidson Architects were commissioned in 2014 to develop an argument for the demolition of the existing building that was deemed a Positive Contributor, to be replaced with a high-quality residential scheme within this challenging site situated to the south of Kensington High Street within the Edwardes Square, Scarsdale and Abingdon Conservation Area in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). The deep site has a narrow street frontage and is neighboured on three sides by existing houses and gardens. This includes the gardens of five Listed buildings to Edward’s Square, whose setting was not be harmed. The existing building covered almost the entire area of the site, enclosing on neighbouring garden walls.
Change of Use
Our client sought a change-of-use to convert the part residential (Use Class C3) and part social and community use (Use Class F1 (f)), to entirely residential use. Given the target high-end residential market, a new-build contemporary scheme was identified from the outset as the most appropriate approach for re-development of the site. A conversion of the existing building would have been limiting in terms of achieving the required development volume and quality of accommodation and thus proved commercially unfeasible.
Although Planning Policy in RBKC promotes the creation of new residential units it also seeks to protect against the loss of social and community uses where these uses are active, sustainable and offer benefits to borough residents. A complex ‘sequential test’ applied to the site and its old use demonstrated that the site could not sensibly accommodate a community use in the future.
Approach to Conservation and Design
The demolition of the existing building within the conservation area was an important planning consideration. The existing building, although low quality and in a poor state of repair, sat amongst some much higher quality buildings in Arts and Crafts style. In determining the acceptability of the building’s replacement, the quality of the new building was paramount and thus closely scrutinized by the Planning Authority. From the beginning of the design process Rodić Davidson Architects promoted a contemporary design approach which sat respectfully within its immediate Arts and Crafts context and the larger conservation area. This approach was welcomed by the RBKC’s Design, Conservation and Planning Officers.
The new contemporary building, whist unique, respects its neighbours by reflecting their Arts and Crafts heritage and thus positively contributes to the street’s developmental history. The building promotes the contemporary architecture’s ability to be highly contextual without being pastiche.
During the planning process Historic England (previously known as English Heritage) assessed the building for Listing. They found the quality of the architecture to be inadequate to merit Listed status. The RBKC’s Architects Appraisal Panel reviewed the development of the proposed scheme and provided backing for Rodić Davidson Architect’s contemporary approach to the replacement building.
The new development provides three duplex units across the basement and ground floors, each with generous gardens and lightwells with two large apartments above. All units are family sized and provide generous open-plan living spaces. The building has been fully tested for Daylight and Sunlight and is BRE compliant.
The massing design was, in part, sculpted by the rights of light requirements of the neighbouring buildings.
Pre-Application, Planning, Appeal
The pre-application process was used to agree a scheme that would be supported by the conservation and leading design officer at RBKC. As a result, the planning application was well received and went to committee with a positive recommendation for approval.
However, the borough Councillors at the committee meeting went against the planning officer’s recommendation for the approval of the development, but the scheme was subsequently granted consent via appeal in April 2017.
Works completed on site in early 2023.
Photographs (c) Edmund Sumner