HOUSE AND GALLERY PORTOBELLO ROAD
This new building at 319 Portobello Road offers a new insight into contemporary urban living as part of the context of the vibrant street market. The house occupies the site of an original end of terrace shop and residence, found to be beyond repair. Demolition provided the opportunity to create a new basement and to adjust internal floor levels to add a new floor above street level within the volume of the original building. The new building consists of a gallery/shop on the lower two floors with a private residence above.
We have preserved the integrity of the terrace to the street with a continuation of the rhythm of window openings on the front facade. Internally we have designed spaces which break the conventions of typical terraced house arrangements and which respond to views across neighbouring gardens to the rear – a ‘borrowed’ landscape which gives a sense of space within a restricted site. Vertical ascent has been accentuated through a sequence of interlocking double height volumes and staircases which have been choreographed as a journey between views which provide glimpses of the surroundings and orientation between market and landscape to the rear.
The layout and character of interior spaces of the house and the gallery have been designed as part of a continuous sequence from the street and to thematically reflect the particular life of the client – Simon Finch, a rare book dealer of international repute. The house is the urban counterpoint to the client’s home in Norfolk and is a place which operates, for him, both as retreat and an extension of his business activities. In every respect the design articulates the tension between the role of dwelling as private oasis and the need for the client to retain public prominence as shop window for his affairs. The first floor corner ‘bay’ window responds to the end of terrace condition and simultaneously provides a glimpse from a secluded interior to Portobello market and a ‘display’ cabinet through which the client interfaces with the public realm. This sense of two worlds meeting is articulated by the layering of glazed shop front screen and concrete enclosure on the front façade. Rough, textured concrete projects the prescence of landscape to the rear within the context of the street.
The dramatic double height spaces of the gallery and house intertwine at a point where public exhibition and private living spaces meet. The public persona of the client is also reflected in these spaces which provide settings for exhibitions and entertainments and which allow the house to transform from a family retreat to become, on occasions a house-gallery for promenade exhibitions of artworks and performances.
The overlay of new internal floor levels and fenestration was part of a calculated process of ‘urban editing’ which define a new extraordinary relationship of windows to interiors. The rhythm of openings to the street extends the sense of the terrace as a backdrop to the ‘urban room’ of the vibrant market. Adjusted floors have created an extraordinary internal pattern of window openings and horizons which offer controlled glimpses of the market and sky.
The use of light, shadow, textured surfaces combined with views of the sky have created spaces with a strong presence of nature within this dense urban situation. materials have been interpreted thematically to recall the life of the client – a rare book dealer. Bare concrete walls take on the quality of dry parchment and paper and recall landscapes which surround the client’s Norfolk home.