Woodhall Drive

London

This project involved the remodeling and refurbishment of an existing detached family house on the Dulwich Estate. As part of the works a new basement was constructed. The client’s brief was to create flexible family living spaces, that would be bathed in natural light and possess a greater sense of informality and connection with the garden and the surrounding landscape.

The Dulwich Estate occupies an area of around 1500 acres of land in South London, containing around 5000 homes as well as many shops and restaurants. A wide variety of architectural styles are present on the Estate, with some buildings dating back to the Seventeenth Century, when the Estate was first established. Prior to the expansion of London the entire area was covered by the Great North Wood, an ancient woodland, in which the Estate contains some of the most significant remaining fragments. The relationship between the buildings and this landscape are a key part of the unique character and atmosphere of the area.

In the post-war period the Dulwich Estate became keen to attract more families to the area. They instructed the architects Austin Vernon & Partners to prepare a masterplan, which eventually led to the creation of 3000 new homes across the estate. They created family-friendly homes in the secluded, idyllic setting, yet within five miles of Central London, and today these developments are recognized as some of the highest-quality Twentieth Century housing in the country.

A variety of housing types were adopted including bungalows, high-rise apartment blocks, courtyard houses and terraced townhouses. The Estate decided that some larger detached homes were also required. One of the sites chosen for these was Woodhall Drive, where the properties were described as ‘ranch style houses’. Each house was carefully sited to take account of the undulations of the sloping ground and the existing mature trees, while still maintaining privacy and maximising views across London. The Woodhall development received a Good Design Award from the Ministry of Housing in 1967.

The proposed scheme opened up the ground floor, creating a series of interlocking spaces arranged around a generous entrance hall. Sliding screens allow the hall to become completely open to the surrounding living spaces, or separated in a number of configurations. This allows the creation of a variety of spatial arrangements to suit the different ways the client wanted to use the house at different times.

Externally two key new elements are proposed. A frameless glass box is positioned to one side of the entrance door, located over a new stair that serves all levels. The open design of the stair ensures that the natural light captured by the glass box is allowed to penetrate into the adjacent entrance hall and down into the basement. To other side of the entrance door a glass wall runs the full height of the building before folding up onto the pitched roof surface above. A dramatic new triple height space is carved out behind this glass wall and connects the entrance hall to all levels of the home.

These new glazed areas are detailed as minimal, crisp elements, designed to read as discreet and modest additions that are sympathetic to the character of the existing house. The generous sliding glass walls with their minimal frames, amplify the sense of connection between internal and external spaces. To one side of the house two adjacent glass walls are able to slide away from one another, dissolving the corner of the house and the allowing the living spaces to become completely open to the garden.

The intention was to create a series of internal and external spaces that are seen through one another and work in unison. As you move around the house different views emerge with glimpses to the gardens beyond and framed views of the sky and the canopies of the adjacent mature trees and views out across to central London. The variety of new glazing treatments allows the interior of the house to capture the changing quality of natural light and sunlight through the course of the day.