Dominic McKenzie Architect’s (DMA) renovation of Emmanuel House works with memory and history concealed by existing city fabric.
A Modernist house constructed in the 1950s in St. Johns Wood in London, part of a short terrace of five.
The project takes its name from Emmanuel Church which occupied the site prior to the Modern terrace being constructed. The church’s roof was damaged during World War 2 and with the pragmatism and belief in modernity that followed the war, before more recent Conservation concerns, the church was pulled down rather than being restored. No trace of the original building remains on the site.
The existing house occupies an advantageous position at the end of the terrace, but prior to DMA’s work nothing was made of this location. Internally the floor plan was subdivided into distinct cellular rooms with a long snaking corridor from the front door. The rooms, particularly the kitchen felt very dark.
DMA worked to declutter and simplify each of the floors and to connect the internal spaces with the exterior. New glazing has been inserted into the side façade which was previously largely blank as it turned the corner. At ground floor the rear façade was similarly opened up to face the rear courtyard garden. An existing mature wisteria plant in the rear courtyard garden was protected during the work and has been retrained across the new timber cladding.
On entry to the house now the impression is of a light-filled house surrounded by garden on three sides. The existing concrete spiral stair which was previously hidden at the end of the corridor has been retained and revealed in the centre of the renovated house, the carpeted steps re-dressed with timber and a new sinuous bespoke steel and timber balustrade added to the side.
Highlighting the curved stair, a tall new window rises up the side elevation, its arched form recalls the clerestory windows of Emmanuel Church. At the top of the staircase a circular rooflight echoes the arched window adjacent and also references the circular rooflight above the staircase in Erno Goldfinger’s home in Hampstead.
A key part of the brief was to improve sustainability within the house. This was sensitively integrated to be almost invisible in the final built project.
Existing single glazed Crittall-type windows were replaced with thermally-broken double glazed steel framed windows matching the original fenestration pattern. Retained exterior walls were insulated on the inside faces with breathable woodfibre insulation.
The existing gas supply which was previously used for heating and cooking was replaced with an entirely electric system. An Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) replaced the existing gas boiler and a Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) system was introduced throughout the house to improve air quality while conserving energy. Solar PVs were installed on the flat roof at the top of the house. These elements were integrated into the large bespoke joinery cupboard at the rear of the ground floor.