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Courtfield Gardens Apartment, Kensington, London.

  • Architect:
    Niall McLaughlin Architects
  • Award Type:
    Regional Award 2003
  • Location: Overseas
Courtfield Gardens Apartment, Kensington, London.


Overseas Between €300,000 and €3,000,000

An enlightened client takes inspiration from a sacristy interior in Kensington and commissions the architect to design a modern apartment in a terraced house to be flooded in light. He then travels to Rome and visits the Church of San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane by Borromino to see the craftsmanship of the seventeenth century to master of Sculptured Light . The collaboration results in a harmonious and restrained modern interior beautifully crafted employing a series of roof lights in a form of transverse and deep curved beams of cast plaster to top floor easing the light softly downwards. A new steel stairs, isolated from its enclosure is also employed, bainfully as a light filter. It s a joyful exercise in realising the possibility of light management today.

Architect's Comment
Beaufort House is a property development company. They commissioned this practice to design an apartment on the top floor of a Nineteenth Century terraced house in Kensington. The terrace has a stucco facade and opens out onto a square which is part of a Conservation Area. Planning restrictions meant that the glazing and the facade had to be preserved with their typical proportions and sash windows. It was possible to open out the roof to make a terrace behind a traditional lead parapet roof construction.

The large terraced house is divided into five apartments and this one is a maisonette on the fourth and fifth floors. The journey up to the apartment is through an internal staircase which rises through the centre of the building. We wanted our design to be a journey up towards daylight at the top of the building. Once you open the door into the flat you are aware of daylight spilling down from three floors above. The staircase of the house is a smooth plaster container holding a steel stair which does not touch the edges. The stair was made in one piece and craned into the container from above. We think of it as being like a ship in a bottle. Light spills down around the edges of the stair.

The main living space is on the top floor and it celebrates its position under the sky by opening up a range of rooflights along the length of the room. Daylight enters between transverse beams of cast plaster. The beams are deep and curved to ease the light into the room. They act as a baffle to soften the light as it enters.

Two long slots run the length of the walls of main space and they contain everything from the TV, fireplace, stereo, air conditioning, bookshelves and so on. They generate a dado line which is consistent throughout the room. Our clients, the developers, have furnished it as a show flat with furniture by Mies Van Der Rohe and a dining table designed by this practice made from a single English walnut tree which had fallen in a storm.

The roof terrace on the top floor is a kind of negative space with light coming out through the roof deck at night. There are alternating slots of timber and opalescent glass which make a banding of light and shade in the evening. It is possible to walk over this banded surface. This makes a connection between inside and outside.

The flat is designed around light. The space is intended to change as the sun wheels overhead, sometimes casting beams of light down the walls, sometimes blurring into soft shades of blue and grey. The luminosity of the rooms shifts continuously through the day and through the seasons.

Client's Comment
We instructed Niall McLaughlin Architects to design an apartment that would be flooded with light and crafted in a modern manner. We had seen their interior of a sacristy of a church in Kensington. After discussion, Niall McLaughlin advised that we should visit the church of San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane in Rome to see how the master of sculpted light had achieved in the seventeenth century what Niall was proposing in the twenty first. Clearly there is no other apartment that allows the shafts of light to penetrate into the heart of the apartment throughout the day in the manner that Niall McLaughlin Architects have designed. At night the artificial light is projected into the apartment from the sane source to replicate the marvellous sense of space and light well into the night.