London‘s private home design harkens back to the city’s long history. Rows of Victorian and Classical facades border the streets with a polished consistency, built narrowly to conserve room for a burgeoning metropolis. While the purity and neatness of this residential landscape may appeal to both inhabitants and visitors, many Londoners are seeking new ways to express themselves architecturally with their houses. 

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Silverlight amidst historical and modern context_ ©Ed Reeve

Adding contemporary extensions has become a prominent trend for people looking to generate additional space thereby adding a modern flair to their houses. These residences differ in style, exploring experimental manifestations and materials and relying on indigenous ideas. One such incredible piece of engineering is David Adjaye‘s award-winning house Silverlight.

The Site

Mingling beautifully with the Victorian pub building on the east and an old building on the west it stands on a slender strip of land along the Grand Union Canal. The site was initially seen by the property’s owners, media distributor Colin Gibbons and his partner Nicola Ferguson-Lees, in 2001. It used to be a factory that produced powder puffs for make-up compacts back then. And the first idea was to renovate this factory, but Adjaye proposed that it be demolished and create a whole new structure.

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Silverlight amidst historical and modern context_ ©Lyndon Douglas

Kerb Appeal

Adjaye is widely known for designing structures that respond to their contexts with the meticulous arrangement of rooms and unique material and colour choices. He plays along and defies the rules of the cultural convention and architecture and Silverlight exemplified these attributes. Designed in accordance with its historical canal side, it got its name owing to use of the reflective silver cladding used in its façade. The façade’s horizontal lines correspond to the window heights of the adjacent building.

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Northern facade with few openings_ ©Adjaye Associates

The designs of David Adjaye are the answer not only to urban grain but also to factors such as climatic conditions, topography, and light quality. The northern elevation of the Silverlight [the side facing the main road] has very few openings due to the high level of traffic noise. The southern elevation has comparatively more windows and a two-story triangular extension [two outdoor terrace areas, one of which connects to the main bedroom] for better light and views of the canal. 

Furthermore, the two-story house breaks the Grand Canal’s skyline, and the height extension seamlessly connects with the roofs of the neighbouring workshop and building across the canal, allowing it to blend in gracefully.

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Entrance gate_ ©Common Works

Innovation and Design

From the time you arrive at the house, you can see the clever interplay of materials. The house is made accessible through a glass entry, which appears to be straightforward. At the click of a finger, a section of the glazed exterior wall slides back, exposing the garage to the street, enabling one to drive their cars directly onto the main road. Moreover, there is another set of glass doors with room for a jetty, so one could arrive by canal boat if desired. The vibrant red inner garage is a surprising sight as you enter the house. 

The walls are punctured with glass portholes that channelize light into the darker internal corridors beyond, which are impregnated with crushed CDs to create a glistening effect. This is artistically combined by David Adjaye with concrete walls and an above woodchip ceiling.

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Mirrored slits, coloured floor and pivot windows_ ©Adjaye Associates

All the ground-floor guest rooms have concealed storage behind padded PVC-covered walls. David Adjaye indigenously brings life to the house by using materials that will decompose at their own pace. Like a growing plant that constantly evolves. With glimmering light across the walls due to exposed industrial ceiling pans framed by mirror edging. 

These not just reflect light but also creates an illusion that the steel decks don’t end at the wall but are continuous. The windows may be rotated to direct light or give seclusion. High-impact lighting adds a nighttime atmosphere, while different mirrors enable the ripple effects of the Canal’s waters to echo throughout.

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The living room_ ©Adjaye Associates

The open-plan living area creates drama and a strong connection to the city and the canal, while the staircase suggests a journey, with its size forcing you to take a mental break when moving between the house’s private and social areas.

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The living room_ ©Adjaye Associates

The couple’s bedroom is located on the first floor, accessible via a concrete staircase. Advancing to the upper floor, red LEDs illuminate the recessed handrails, casting sculptural silhouettes across the walls. The double-height, open-plan living space at the top has an overwhelming sense of scale, which is intensified by the mirror-lined windows that run the length of the upper walls, framing the sky. The concrete kitchen island and banquette seating are integral to the architecture and testament to Adjaye’s incredible attention to detail, so there is little need for furniture.

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double-height and open-plan living space _ ©Adjaye Associates

Silverlight is brimming with intricate details and finesse. Moreover, here, color through the use of various materials rules. The green-style kitchen breaks down the myth that an all-white, sleek contemporary kitchen is the only way to achieve progress. In one of its guest rooms, Deep Violet rules the roost, while burnt orange is present in one of the bathrooms, and a vibrant red in the lobby, and the interior garage. Despite the house’s diverse color palette, it appears in harmony. No wonder it’s a manifestation of the ideologies of David Adjaye. 

Green zesty kitchen_ ©Adjaye Associates

From the unconventional use of materials, tailor-made designs, and revolutionary understandings, to a well-balanced fusion of various factors, including luxury, functionality, and emotional needs, David Adjaye has distinguished himself as one of the generation’s most influential architects. And Silverlight is an ode to this!!

References

ArchDaily (Year). Title of web document/page. [online]. (Last updated: if this information is available). Available at: URL [Accessed date: Day/Month/Year].

“Silverlight / Adjaye Associates” (15/May/2015). Arch Daily. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/631427/silverlight-adjaye-associates> ISSN 0719-8884 [Accessed 11 Sep 2021]

“Domus Nova” (Apr 24, 2015 ). Issuu. [online] Available at: https://issuu.com/domusnova/docs/domuslifesummer2015/44

ELLE Decoration UK. (2015). Silverlight: A contemporary London home by architect David Adjaye. [online]. Available at: https://youtu.be/Ue5MNVQAD4o. [Accessed 11 Sep 2021]

Author

Shirley is an architecture student with an interest in sustainable design. She believes that as designers we must not only wisely design for people, but also share our ideas, thoughts, and vision with the community to make the beautiful nuances of architecture accessible to all.

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