Primrose Hill’s Mitzman Architects have recently completed a stunning and innovative new house in Canonbury. Intrigued by the thoughtful creativity behind the build, I went to chat with Mitzman partners Richard Mitzman and Socrates Militiadou at their practice in Primrose Mews in the heart of Primrose Hill.
I had visited the house very soon after its completion because it had been built for a friend of mine; and as it happens, one if the architects involved is also a friend, so I was particularly keen to see what had been created. It was clearly an unusual build, not least because it was a very rare bespoke pre-fabricated building with impeccable eco-friendly credentials. However, when I visited, I discovered that the genius of this home went far beyond the mechanics of the building, thanks to an inspired layout: pierced with an elegant, triangular courtyard at the centre, the space creates the thoroughly modern sense of open-plan, communal living, whilst also providing for smaller spaces with specific uses, such as a study, a pantry and, glory of glories, a magnificent and stylish utility room. The huge windows onto all sides of the central courtyard, allowing a sight-line across the house and onto the garden, make this simultaneous effect of spaciousness and cosy compartmentalism possible.
Richard Mitzman and Socrates Militiadou had worked with the client, my friend, twice before, and now she had bought a defunct and unlovely modern-ish house with a decent-sized garden on a very attractive street in Islington. The house was to be demolished and replaced with a new home for modern family living, with a minimal eco-footprint and a harmony with its environs. Being attached on two sides to a listed building and sitting amongst traditional Victorian houses in a conservation area, the brief was always going to be a challenge; but by keeping a friendly dialogue active with neighbours and by starting out with the intention of creating a home that would be a subtle and sympathetic presence in the neighbourhood, a house was created that was welcome and appreciated. “We wanted to create a quiet building, modern but polite within the conservation area,” explained Socrates; Richard added that they “tend to design around function and take the opposite approach to those who seek to create ‘icon’ buildings. For us, it’s not about the outside of the building, but how it is used.”
The success of the building’s functionality and sense of space and flow came from the most meticulous planning. The courtyard was crucial, as was the decision to position the upper storey across one side of the house, leaving the main living space as a single-storey opening to the courtyard on one side and the garden on the other. Socrates explained how the potential use of the spaces, how they would flow together and what should be connected was at the heart of the design process from the start; “the micro and macro were always considered together.”
The mechanics of the build itself were also central to the planning. Richard and Socrates commissioned a Slovenian company, Riko, to pre-fabricate the house to their bespoke requirements; the parts were lowered into place by crane and fitted beautifully together on site. The advantages to this method were that the house could be assembled in record time and and disturbance to neighbours could be kept to a minimum, although it was no less expensive than a traditional build would be, partly because of transportation costs. Riko’s other work in the UK includes The Lakes by Yoo in the Cotswolds.
And of course client and architects, led by project architect Reggie Reynolds, were very keen to minimise the house’s ecological impact. Much analysis and discussion threw up plenty of excellent options, the most practical and efficient of which were insulation of walls and ceilings and to recycle waste heat by MVHR units. Efficient underfloor heating and cross-ventilation help to maintain an even warmth in winter and coolness in summer, and the sedum-planted roof reduces rainwater run-off and provides a habitat for bees and butterflies.
Above all, though, I can see that my friend has a house she loves, that fits her family’s needs like a particularly stylish glove, and Mitzmans has added another house to their catalogue of wonderful buildings to be immensely proud of.
Unit 1 Primrose Mews
t: +44 (0) 20 7722 8525
© 2018 Joanna Reeves, all rights reserved.