Rodić Davidson Architects

Five Apartments, Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington002003004005006007008009St Mary Abbots PlaceSt Mary AbbotsSt Mary Abbots PlaceSt Mary Abbots PlaceSt Mary Abbots PlaceSt Mary Abbots PlaceSt Mary Abbots Place

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This contemporary, new-build, apartment scheme sits within a quiet cul-de-sac, south of Kensington High Street in London. The proposal replaces an existing 20th century building to create five apartments over basement to second floor levels. The scheme takes key references from neighbouring properties; developing the existing rhythm of the street elevation, whilst providing a modern understanding of the surrounding Arts & Crafts heritage.

The challenging site, enveloped on three sides by neighbouring buildings, did not allow for perimeter outlook. This constraint created an opportunity to design unique spaces with neatly overlapping views, areas of privacy and a final design which tightly weaves a number of apartments around each other.

To protect neighbours’ views and sense of privacy, the apartments are inward facing and arranged around generous courtyards. These courtyards supply an abundance of natural light and amenity space. Car parking is provided within the building via a concealed car stacker.

Planning consent was granted at Appeal in 2017.

The Site

Rodic Davidson Architects were commissioned to prepare a design for this challenging site in 2014. It is situated to the south of Kensington High Street within the Edwardes Square, Scarsdale and Abingdon Conservation Area in RBKC. The site is deep with a relatively narrow street frontage and is neighboured on three sides by existing houses and gardens. This includes the gardens of five Listed buildings to Edwardes Square. The site currently houses a large building comprising a traditional house at the front and a light-industrial appendage at the rear. The existing building covers 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 site, most recently in use as part residential (Use Class C3) and part social and community use (Use Class D1), to entirely residential use. Given a target towards the high-end residential market, the client required a new-build, contemporary scheme from the outset. A conversion of the existing building would have been limiting in terms of design ambition and useable floorspace.

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. Applying a complex ‘sequential test’ 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 issue. The existing building, although low quality and in a poor state of repair, sits amongst some much higher quality buildings in an Arts and Crafts style. In determining the acceptability of the building’s replacement, the quality of the new building is paramount and carefully assessed. From the beginning of the design process Rodic Davidson sought a contemporary design which sat respectfully within its immediate Arts and Crafts context and the larger conservation area.

The new building complements its neighbours; reflecting their Arts and Crafts heritage and the street’s developmental history, while providing its own uniqueness. The building is of a contemporary style while retaining a domestic Arts and Crafts heritage, bringing a critical dialogue with the neighbouring buildings and an appropriate understanding of their design – a continuation of the Arts and Crafts aspirations, not a pastiche of previous buildings.

During the course of the planning process Historic England (previous known as English Heritage) assessed the building for Listing. They found the quality of the architecture to be inadequate to merit Listed status.

Light Matters

The design proposes three duplex units across the basement and ground floors, each with generous gardens and lightwells. Two large apartments sit above this, each with their own floor. All units are family sized and provide generous 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 officer 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, borough Councillors at the committee meeting went against the planning officer’s recommendation for the approval of the development. The scheme was subsequently granted consent via appeal in April 2017. This consent was a great achievement for the entire project team.

We are looking forwards to works commencing on site. Look out for site photos in news and on Instagram for site in the coming months!

For: Capus Land Ltd

In conjunction with: Savills (Planning) – KM Heritage (Heritage) – Heyne Tillett Steel (Structure) – TUV-SUD (Services and Energy) – Anstey Horne (Rights of Light / Daylight / Sunlight / Party Walls)

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