Paxton Locher Architects, 1995
8-9 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DE
A unique modern courtyard house making brilliant use of a restricted site. A retractable glass roof gives wonderful natural light and opens the house to the sky in dry weather.
40, 341, 55, 243, 153, 63
There is a Santander bike station in Clerkenwell Green directly opposite the house
Clerkenwell Green is no longer accessible to motor vehicles so parking is limited to Aylesbury Street and Sekforde Street. This is free after 1.30 Saturday and all day Sunday. Clerkenwell Green is in the congestion charge zone.
The house was built in 1995/96 by the architects Richard Paxton and Heidi Locher for themselves and their two children. After an initial plan for a theatre was shelved, Paxton and Locher acquired the Clerkenwell Green site, with plans for four flats and an office at the front of the site and a single house at the rear. The flats were sold to finance the development. The ground floor and basement office was originally accessible from the house and was used by Paxton Locher Architects, before also being sold.
The main part of the house is designed around a double height atrium, with the principal bedrooms on the first floor above the living areas. Daylight enters through a glass roof which retracts in fine weather, converting the atrium into an outside courtyard space. A sensor automatically closes the roof when it rains. By eliminating the need for conventional windows, this unusual design enables the residential use of a difficult site hemmed in on all sides by neighbouring buildings.
The second floor (originally the children’s bedrooms) is also lit from above by skylights at each end and a hydraulic hinged rooflight which gives access to the roof terrace.
The present owner has refurbished the house, respecting Paxton Locher’s original aims of maximising natural light and making efficient use of all available space. The project included complete refurbishment of the retractable roof by Monty Ravenscroft, who designed it originally for Paxton Locher, and the remodelling of the roof terrace and floor below to incorporate the hinged rooflight, also designed and installed by Monty’s company Meia. Other design features are glass basins inspired by the Paxton Locher originals, and internal walls made from switchable glass to increase natural light to the bathrooms, both designed and built by 800 Group.
Richard Paxton (1956-2006) studied at Kingston University, before working at Ahrends, Burton & Koralek, where he was involved in the design of the Cummins Diesel Factory in Scotland. In 1985 he established his own practice with his future wife, Heidi Locher, who had formerly worked for Terence Conran.
The pair designed both the Soho Theatre and the Jerwood Space in Southwark. However, they are best remembered for the significant domestic projects they undertook both for themselves and for distinguished clients, including Douglas Adams and Griff Rhys Jones. Notable among them is this modern courtyard house in Clerkenwell, which has been described by the architecture critic Kenneth Powell as “one of the great London houses of the late 20th century”.
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