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F

rom the outside it doesn’t stand out, as it’s one of the many redbrick terraced homes that make up the urban fabric of Kensington—London’s most exclusive neighborhood. The façade has been preserved just as it was in 1851 (the year in which it was built in classic Victorian style) as the strict rules of the local department of heritage dictate. Fortunately, the wisdom of governance gives carte blanche to the indoors, allowing owners to free the spaces from the antique subdivisions of the dark and narrow rooms and stairways. And here we are already at the crux of the radical renovation desired by the homeowners yearning for light and air carried out by the London studio Flow Architecture together with Magrits. 

 

The Kensington terraced home overlooks the private courtyard

The Kensington terraced home overlooks the private courtyard, conceived as an integral part of the life of the indoors. In the background a large walnut tree that in summer protects the terrace with its shade.

 

As per usual, the lot is long and narrow. There are four floors plus a basement, 290 m2 in total, which means, if we do the math, less than 60 m2 per floor (stairs included). In the back a small private courtyard is placed amongst a large space enclosed by the entire block.
The project’s main mantra was to open as much as possible and create visual links to the indoors and outdoors from all directions, including from the gloomy London sky. “The name Light Falls perfectly expresses the soul of the house”, say the architects Vincent Nowak and Annarita Papeschi of Flow Architecture. “The cascading effect of daylight, brought in vertical motion to the centre of the building, enlivens the interior spaces and dissolves the borders between outdoor and indoor spaces.”

 

The kitchen a half-floor below street level still has a window from which it gets light.

The kitchen a half-floor below street level still has a window from which it gets light.

The stairs twisting from the basement (with a violet living room) to the attic on the fourth floor.

The stairs twisting from the basement (with a violet living room) to the attic on the fourth floor.

 

 

The star of the home is the stairway that links the five levels. It is an architectonic and decorative element which can be seen from everywhere and is a part of every space from the basement to the attic. The idea of a waterfall of light is made possible by the thin vertical wooden cuts which gradually give cross-views from the rooms facing the stairway, descending fluidly by bending and curving softly along the walls. The effect is eye-catching and the geometry complicated, but this hardly matters. The only thing that counts here are the spaces which on every step intersect and surprise us with new views and unexpected visual links. 

 

The high-ceilinged living room also acts as the entrance.

The high-ceilinged living room also acts as the entrance. The kitchen and dining room below open onto the courtyard.

A view looking downwards and upwards where the stairs open onto the London sky.

A view looking downwards and upwards where the stairs open onto the London sky.

The surprising visual links that from the rooms open onto the stairway

The surprising visual links that from the rooms open onto the stairway flooded by light are made by vertical wooden cuts that descend through the five levels of the home.

A sectional perspective shows how from the light descends to the basement from above.

A sectional perspective shows how from the light descends to the basement from above.

 

It actually can’t be described better than with the image of a waterfall that descends and expands, spreading light to every opening or partially open gap. A cascade which in this case refracts light to the heart of the home: the large dining room table and kitchen which can be found in the once cramped basement. A not-so-simple task which makes this home nothing less than a tiny masterpiece.   

 

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Design project

Victorian home renovation in the city  
Location: 
Kensington, London, United Kingdom

Design:
FLOW Architecture with Magrits
Team: Vincent Nowak, Annarita Papeschi (FLOW Architecture), Maria Grazia Savito (Magrits)

Contractor Shell & Core: London Basement
Contractor Fit-out: Michael Brady

Consultants:
Structure: StructureMode
MEP: SGA Consulting
Quantity Surveyor: BTP Group
Lighting Design: Mindseye
AV Consultant: Openfield Technology
Planning Consultant: ADL Planning

Photos:
Courtesy ©NAARO

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