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Plotting a future: Prewett Bizley's house serves as a useful bookend, not only to this north London terrace, but also as the third example in our study of capital conditions.

As Prewett Bizley's first built work, this distinctive end-of-terrace has been made very much their own, providing a home for founding partner Graham Bizley, and a base for the fledgling practice co-founded with Robert Prewett. The site was found after three years of failed searches, bids, and planning inquiries. Weary of the process, but with considerable experience, instinct took over when Bizley saw the site. Minutes after raising a hand at auction, and despite having had no contact with the local planning authority, he had become the proud owner of 60sqm of London real estate. A perfect site for a young architect--an overgrown and apparently hopeless tapering plot, with many practical limitations.

For Bizley, inherent constraints were welcome, and very much the making of the project. Despite his understandable enthusiasm to make a mark (initially pursuing Cor-Ten and concrete options), an understanding and interpretation of planning codes, and a close working relationship with his own budget (funded through a personal mortgage) made certain decisions inevitable. The form of the building, in plan and section at least, has been shaped by rights to light obligations; and the absence of any windows to the rear avoids issues of overlooking and fire spread. Many more considered moves were made, such as the internal disposition of spaces, which break with convention; by sandwiching the most private rooms between two principal live/work spaces, and by placing a drying room at the top of a self-ventilating stair tower (supplied with warm air that passes through high level internal windows set above the top-lit dining area). Expressing spaces through the fenestration, the architects also sought to avoid the distracting effect of the intermediate scale, choosing to focus on extremes of large and small gestures by articulating a solid wall with an apparently haphazard arrangement of punched-out windows; with each specifically located and detailed according to the spaces they serve. Externally, other questions were addressed, such as, how the building should address the street, with a practical threshold that avoids alienating gates and screens.

It is, however, the interior that deserves the closest inspection, given the wide variety of spaces produced within a plan that is essentially only one room deep. The plan's effectiveness is achieved through the detailed resolution of the stair; through the integration of built-in storage, particularly at the base of the stair where subtle thresholds exist; and through the spatial duality orchestrated by the glazed rear court, which opens the interiors to the sky, and adheres to one of Christopher Alexander's key pattern book directives, by allowing the occupants to observe their own back wall.

Without excessive expression, a skilful level of detailing is seen throughout, from staircase and storage, to window linings--each with integrated blinds. Despite the inevitability of the first moves, this modest 99sqm house is full of ideas. We wait to see how many of these early preoccupations will emerge through the practice's future work.

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Article Details
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Author:Gregory, Rob
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Words:503
Previous Article:Inner realm: with a combined interest in the sculptural use of concrete and the process of making domestic rooms, Jamie Fobert creates a new family...
Next Article:Treading lightly: this holiday house in Big Sur is a highly tactful and inventive response to stringent local environmental regulations.
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