One Centaur Street
Innovative city housing
Location: London, UK
CollaboratorsConst Consultant Measur
Structural Engineer Adams Kara Taylor
Landscape Architect Jennifer Coe
Main Contractor Parkway Construction
An apartment building situated 30cm from a railway viaduct may not seem the likeliest place for a new housing development, but we have always enjoyed a challenge.
Solid Space Developments came to us in 2000 with the idea for a new type of housing for brownfield sites. It would be a hybrid of the European horizontal apartment and the English vertical terrace house. The site they had in mind was set hard against a Eurostar viaduct on its western side, with three-storey listed early Victorian houses on the east and street frontages to the north and south.
A minor masterpiece.
We conceived One Centaur Street the project as an inside-out building that appears to be a wooden coat over a concrete frame. Closer inspection reveals all to be concrete, with the exterior clad with fibrous cement and mock-timber rain screen.
Given the context, the principle advantages of concrete were in its solidity and soundproofing qualities, but all other components were prefabricated. Off-site manufacture reduces the need for excess materials and reduces on-site time – increasing the project’s environmental credentials.
Each apartment is organised as a large, open, double-height living space, with adjacent bedrooms and stairs forming a buffer to the railway. The generous size of units, riser positions and flexible layouts mean that it’s possible to subdivide all the apartments into live and work, or double household units; a model for loose-fit living.
Completed in 2003, One Centaur Street received several awards in recognition of its small but significant contribution to London’s housing agenda.
In the Guardian, Jonathan Glancey described it as a “minor masterpiece”. Local MP, Simon Hughes, described it as “a project that pushes at the edges of architecture both materially and spatially. It addresses the very difficult issues of location and site neighbours and is a whole new approach to housing.”
The development transformed a derelict site to create homes that offer light, air, security and an oasis in this inner-city environment.
We were so proud of One Centaur Street that we bought one of the apartments. We first used it as an office for the practice and then as a home; a testament of the inherent flexibility of the space.
A rough-hewn but elegant beast, we learned a lot from One Centaur Street, not least how to overcome the significant challenges of context and materiality. But our most important lesson was as residents there, where we worked, lived, fought, taught and danced; that the life of a building only truly begins when the occupants move in.