Tag Archives: concrete

villa altona.

Villa Altona is located on a dramatically sloping site in Sweden, with villas on one side and forest on the other. These site characteristics have clearly generated the form, placement and tones of the building. It is a bold, modern structure, with a low pitch roof, covered in sedum. Designed by The Common Office, it is considered one of Sweden’s most interesting buildings by the Swedish Association of Architects. And it’s for sale.

The interior is almost one continuous room, rising up over several levels, connected by a thinly profiled metal stair. At the top, a large, central retractable skylight (providing access to a roof terrace, of course), fills the interior with light and adds transparency to the building. Light abounds, with window walls everywhere. Family and private zones are separated, or not, with large sliding walls.



Floor and roof slabs are concrete, cast in situ and left raw. Slender steel columns offer support.
A perforated metal floor gives an industrial feel, with the main floor of oak parquet. This is the least successful material to my mind: the sections of parquet too small for the scale of the building. Otherwise the materials are used boldly – stainless steel, mirror, brushed concrete.

What do you think?

Villa Altona, The Common Office, for sale here, via

house of concrete and corten.

Concrete is the predominant material used in this beautifully considered renovation in an otherwise archetypal Victorian terrace in West London.

Cast insitu and finely detailed, it is used for floors, walls and furniture elements. Forming a storage unit or bench, walls and plinths change level or quietly recede, accommodating the day-to-day activities of a family – eating, reading, playing – whilst blurring the traditional division of rooms. The boundary is further blurred between indoor and outdoor spaces with a large window seat projecting into the garden.

The facade is clad in Corten steel with its wonderful rusted, oxide patina. Inside, Grey Elm joinery,  pale walls and brass fixtures also soften the palette and add warmth to the cool, grey concrete.


Moving up through he building, the existing structure and materials are allowed to coexist with the new. A palette of Douglas Fir floor boards, light coloured walls and exposed brickwork are the basis for a loft extension. A built-in desk extends the width of the study and becomes an open shelf as it wraps around the corner.

To me, this is the perfect solution for contemporary family living. What you think?

More Ingersoll Road by Mclaren Excell, here.

covert house.


Covert House has been much acclaimed in the architectural press of late. It offers a successful case study for good design despite difficult site demands – the house is mainly underground, restricted by a 3.5 meter height limit and huge boundary setbacks. But equally successful to my mind is the interior. There is too often an overwhelming gap between architecture and interior, with architects neglecting the interior for sake of the big architectural expression, and interior designers having little if any influence over the outside form. Here, the architect owners have embraced both.

Concrete is used outside and in in various forms – cast in situ, left raw, highly polished. In its unfinished state, it provides the perfect backdrop. The imperfections – discolouration and mottling – show the effort and craft involved in making the structure. Light abounds, via light wells and the white and light reflecting surfaces. The effect is elegant and light-handed and the resulting spaces appear calm and domiciliary. Furniture is mostly mid-century and there is a mix of timbers used in the furnishings, and a timber lined bathroom. The only soft surfaces appear to be the upholstery fabrics.


For me, concrete has always been the ultimate building material (more concrete inspiration, here). It can work very successfully in commercial interiors. Here, it is equally successful in a residential setting. What do you think? Would you live here?

Covert House by DHDSA, via The Architects’ Journal. Photographs: Christoffer Rudquist via

Another successful concrete house, here.

the anatomy of a building.


Sir Denys Lasdun created a radical new headquarters for the Royal college of Physicians 50 years ago. Unlike anything else in the classical, verdant green surroundings of Regent’s Park, his building was bold, restrained and unashamedly modern. He is also the architect responsible for one of my other favourite of all London buildings, the National theatre, Southbank.

Lasdun’s building is comprised of three contrasting materials, expressing the form of the building and defining the three distinct zones. The grand, ceremonial areas are clad in off-white mosaic, appearing to float above the lower administrative areas constructed from dark blue engineering bricks. Concrete was used for the fire escape and functional, hard-working parts of the building.


This extraordinary building is the subject of a current exhibition, now until 13 February 2015.
‘The anatomy of a building: Denys Lasdun and the Royal College of Physicians’, Royal College of Physicians, St Andrew’s Place, Regent’s Park, London. More, here

Photograph via and RCP 

slip house.

An apt successor to the concrete-and-pink gallery house of my previous post, Slip House comprises ‘a simple, sculptural form of three cantilevered boxes (or slipped) boxes’. The shifting planes break up the bulk of the building, adding to this sculptural quality. Largely constructed from glass, steel and concrete, these raw materials are evident inside and out. This is architecture in its raw form, designed by an architect as his own home. It was also an RIBA award winner –  best house in the UK for 2013. It is also nobly eco friendly, sustainable and energy efficient with triple glazing, solar panels and wildflower roofs all contributing to its performance.


The house is arranged over three floors with a large roof garden on top. Full-height glazing at either end together with an open plan layout (the perimeter walls carry the load) allow the light into the centre; necessary in an infill site with neighbouring terraces in close proximity. It has the requisite architectural details – shadow gap at the junctions between vertical and horizontal surfaces, and where elements of different materials conjoin. It is minimal in its use of materials and finishes, with an utterly retrained palette. 

Could you live here? It’s marvellously accomplished, but personally I find the purity a little relentless. I’m also not keen on the pinkish hue of the birch plywood, seen on much of the bespoke joinery, as it sits alongside the dull grey of the exposed concrete. I’d have to add some disharmony – lots of textures, some colour.

Slip House by Carl Turner Architects for sale, here. Photography: Tim Crocker

a madrid penthouse in white.

Coolness and light abound in this split-level penthouse in Madrid. All access areas to the property were conceived as outdoor spaces to increase privacy and a sense of seclusion. Terraces on different levels are fed with a natural irrigation system and rain water from the roof tops; these terraces of warm earth along with the concrete structure also serve as insulators.

Internally, white walls provide the backdrop, pale wood floors and stone offer coolness under-foot. Seamlessness is created with flush, built-in cupboards and shadow gaps where level changes meet the floor. I spy: light wood Wishbone chairs, Eames DSW and Catifa chairs with their shells in white; a George Nelson clock, Panthella table lamp. The simplest metal handrails.


Which details do you like best?

Split-level penthouse in Madrid by Abaton Architects, here.

More wonderful, cool, white spaces, here.

open and close house.

It begins as a linear box, then, a system of wooden, slatted blinds create a dynamic, evolving facade. The blinds and openings operate separately and so allow for different compositions, sometimes controlled and sometimes random. At any given moment and for whatever reason (privacy, protection from the sun) the facade can change. Thus: ‘we can achieve a composition that is balanced, dynamic, haphazard, closed or open within the same framework’.

Within, the space is simple. White perimeter walls, dividing walls that don’t meet the ceiling, others that shoot past. Linear slots in the ceiling contain the lighting. A poured concrete floor provides a seamless transition throughout. The stair comprises timber treads cantilevered off a concrete wall, with formwork bolt holes forming the decorative element on the surface of the concrete in a controlled pattern. The balustrade comprises sheets of iron-free glass (so are transparent, not green in colour) which are without frames or evident fixings.

The furniture is classic and simple – Eames DSR chairs, a Barcelona coffee table, a parasol-like pendant over the solid wood dining table (I’m not familiar with this particular pendant, but it’s rather lovely).


The wood slats are continued inside, which together with the external slatted blinds, cast wonderful lines of sharp, playful light.

Kfar Shmaryahu House in Israel by Pitsou Kedem Architects via 

More wonderful spaces, here