Cowan Court, Churchill College, University of Cambridge
Cowan Court is a 68-room hall of residence and the first completely new court built since the college was founded as a memorial to Sir Winston Churchill in the ‘white heat of technology’ of the early 1960’s. Churchill College was a pioneer in the radical expansion of university education in the post-war period, and for British architecture in general.
Half a century later, Cowan Court turns the picturesque Brutalism of the original college towards the 21st century. Sustainability, accessibility, landscape and a new approach to communal and private space transform the raw sensuality of the brick and board marked concrete courts of the original college into an innovative, contemporary, low-energy timber building. The staircase that traditionally serves and defines a vertical community of rooms becomes a cloister, bringing circulation towards social spaces positioned around enclosed landscaped woodland at the centre of the building. The rooms served by the central cloister are all fully accessible and frame views outwards, towards Churchill’s extensive open playing fields and meadows.
Three storeys, square court, the same footprint as the existing courts: Cowan Court evolves many features of the original college buildings. The untreated reclaimed oak cladding echoes the textured board marked concrete and the colour of brick in the original college. New pale oak adds refinement in the lining to the cloister and triple glazed windows. The bay windows, characteristic of original student rooms, reappear as deep window seats within the thick, insulated walls of the energy efficient new building. In summer, the densely planted birch forest within the court shades an informal garden for students to meet and study, which turns to orange in autumn and opens to the sky in winter.
The materiality of Cowan Court forms part of an ambitious environmental strategy; passive ventilation, triple glazing and super insulation reduces the amount of energy consumed in construction and in use. Solar electricity, solar water heating and rainwater collection reduce the energy requirements yet further.
6a won an international competition to design this first new court in the college in 2008. The existing buildings were designed by Sheppard Robson following one of the most important architectural competitions of the post-war period. Today, the listed college is one of the finest examples of English Brutalism in the UK. Cowan Court responds to the original in a contemporary timber construction. In three overhanging floors, the jettying timber cuts recall the concrete bands across the facades of the existing courts. Each of the facades is curved like the entasis of a classical column, and the square windows of the student rooms spiral up and across, chasing around corners in playful misalignment.
Structural Engineer: Price & Myers
Environmental Engineer: Max Fordham
Quantity Surveyor: Gleeds
Landscape: Jonathan Cook Landscape Architects
Contractor: SDC Builders Ltd
Juergen Teller Studio, London
Across a long and narrow plot in West London, 6a architects has designed a series of three buildings and gardens for photographer Juergen Teller.
With few views out, daylight comes through concrete beams that march the length of the site and support north lights in the roof or from the gardens that separate the buildings. Poured concrete external walls mesh the new building into the residual fragments of existing brick boundaries.
The new buildings contain offices, an archive, a top lit studio space, a kitchen, a library, and an ensemble of ancillary rooms.
The three gardens, designed by Dan Pearson Studio introduce a sequence of external rooms rooms in between the interiors leading from the street towards increasingly private interiors of the artist's studio. The gardens are inspired by the urban gardens that spring naturally in ruinous or untouched corners of the city - especially those captured by RS Fitter's classic book; London's Natural History.
Juergen Teller has documented the building process in a series of fashion shoots on site. He continues to take photographs thoughout the buildings and gardens, most recently published in Arena Homme +
Architects: 6a architects
Landscape design: Dan Pearson Studio
Structural Engineers: Price & Myers
Environmental Engineers: Max Fordham
Main Contractor: Harris Calnan
Sadie Coles hq,
Davies Street, London w1, 2015
6a architects has completed a new gallery in Mayfair for Sadie Coles hq. An irregular arrangement of stairs and mezzanines in the former piano showroom was demolished to create a new double height gallery and two smaller galleries at first floor linked by a new concrete stair cast in situ.
The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Art Gallery, London, 2015-16
6a architects has designed a major retrospective of the World of Charles and Ray Eames at the Barbican Art Gallery, curated by Catherine Ince.
Four decades of work from the Eames’ studio spanning architecture, photography, furniture, illustration and pioneering multi-screen films are presented alongside collections of artefacts and toys that populated their extraordinary house and studio built in the hills of Los Angeles.
Echoing their use of standard element building products, the exhibition is organised in a sequence of rooms built using drywall, today’s most ubiquitous standardised construction system. Normally hidden behind layers of plasterboard in offices, schools and hospitals, the exhibition uses slender steel studs left exposed, framing artworks, views across galleries and the furniture within them. Inexpensive, easy to cut and quick to assemble, the drywall stud is the natural descendent of American building products. Following the Eamesian tradition, these everyday commercial materials are turned to create a playful and open spatial narrative through one of the most significant contributions to twentieth century and contemporary design.
MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, 2012-2017
Construction will start in July 2016 on 6a architects expansion of MK Gallery, one of the UK’s leading public contemporary art galleries, to open in 2017 on the 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes. The new building will include gallery spaces, an auditorium for film, performance and talks, education facilities and a café and bar.
Placed at the end of Midsummer Boulevard, where city's central axis meets Campbell Park, the gallery will be the centre of Milton Keynes’ arts quarter. The main boulevard, set out to leylines aligning with sunrise on Midsummers Day and is lined by the prominent civic, cultural and commercial buildings of the town.
A new building is added to end the city axis wrapped in stainless steel continuing the late-Modern architectural origins of Milton Keynes. Polished metal façade is corrugated across its surface, ambiguously shifting between reflection, transparency and opacity. A large circular window frames views from the auditorium over the radial landforms and conical grassy mounds of Campbell Park.
Client: MK Gallery
Project Manager: RISE
Structural Engineer: Momentum
Environmental Engineer: Max Fordham LLP
Quantity Surveyor: Gleeds
Artists: Gareth Jones & Nils Norman
6a architects x Paul Smith, 11 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London 2013
Civic Trust Award 2014
The new Albemarle Street shop front for Paul Smith builds on a familiar material tradition in London. Cast iron forms an understated background to the city’s streets; its railings, gratings, balconies, and lamp posts. Pauls brief was an eclectic collection of references, images, textures and traditions, encompassing military medals, woven hats and finely drawn gold ingots alongside sharp tailoring, the soft fall of cloth, craftsmanship and delight in surprise.
The ground floor rustication of the Georgian townhouse and the ornamental language of the 18th century shop front were reinterpreted and abstracted in a sinuous pattern of interlocking circles cast into a new solid iron façade. The repetition of the typical Regency shape brought an optical complexity which with the play of sunlight and shadow turns the pattern into a deep surface texture. Seen obliquely it seems woven, like a fine cloth.
The surface is further enlivened by the latent makers’ marks of the casting process and the natural patination of the cast iron. A more intimate discovery is to be made in the trio of small drawings by Paul cast directly into panels scattered across the façade.
Curved windows project from the darkly textured iron as luminous vitrines, with a nod to the curved glass of the nearby arcades. A secret door of stained oak lies flush with the cast iron panels: the inverted carving of the timber recalls the mould and sand bed prepared for the molten metal. The cast iron panels curve in to the recessed oak entrance door, a gently bowed iron step evokes worn away treads. Over time, the iron threshold will polish under foot, recording the life of the building in its material.
Tree House, Whitechapel, London, 2013
RIBA London Award 2014
RIBA London Special Award 2014
The Tree House was developed for the mother of a busy family who in finding herself reliant on a wheelchair was also increasingly confined to a single room. Her home is a pair of small grade II listed 1830’s brick weavers cottages, joined together in the 1970’s, and nestled within a luxuriantly overgrown and flower-filled garden. The ground floor rooms of the two cottages are on different levels and both a half storey above the surrounding gardens.
The Tree House winds down around the trees, cinching itself in to get around the central sumac tree and breathing out again to accommodate a generous bedroom and bathroom below a eucalyptus. The bedroom faces onto a deck into the garden and looks back to the house where existing concrete columns have been reused to support a new timber-framed glazed verandah which ramps between the two original ground floor rooms. The kitchen, people moving through the house and even the street beyond are all glimpsed from the bedroom, the whole house reoriented around the garden.
The new construction is reversible, keeping its footprint light and ensuring listed building consent. It is timber framed on timber foundations and clad in reclaimed Jarrah skimmings. Internally it is simply detailed white interior that forms a softly textured backdrop to the many framed views of trees. All ground floor rooms and the garden are fully wheelchair accessible, absorbing the difference between the cottages and its new rooms. Rose bushes and jasmine climb back over the south facing elevation of the tree house, as it once did to the south facing garden fence.
Romney’s House, Hampstead, London 2012
Holy Bush Hill, Hampstead
Listed Grade 1
Romney’s house was originally built by the Georgian portrait painter George Romney in 1789 as a residence and painting studio. Situated at the top of the steep hill of Hampstead Village it was called Prospect House for its impressive panoramic views of Central London. Two centuries of alteration and poor repair had reduced the architectural clarity of the original design. 6a architects wove new interventions into the history of the house returning the building to a single family dwelling.
Following Romney’s death the house was used for a variety of purposes. A tall Assembly Room was added in 1806 to allow for civic functions. The room is converted into two bedrooms, divided with a pair of gently curving full height partitions. Their geometry adjusts to the original fabric of the room, manoeuvring between historic pilasters and cantilevered balcony. Large windows between rooms retain a sense of the original volume. Smooth curved plaster surfaces reflect and draw light deep into the bedrooms.
A new staircase tower is added to the south, stitching together the house’s varied levels. The external surface is hand-crafted lead, becoming a part of Hampstead’s irregular roof-scape. Inside, a winding oak staircase and plaster handrail winds four storeys from basement to roof. A large bow sash window at the top of the stair tower frames the southern view, extending to the hills of Crystal Palace, as well as bringing light and fresh air into the heart of the house.
Original spaces have been recovered from multiple alterations while new ones have been created inside and outside the house.
Gallery 40, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2012
Mies van der Rohe Award nomination 2013
The fashion gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum reopens on 19th May 2012 following an extensive refurbishment designed by 6a architects. The gallery will house the fashion collection and temporary exhibitions for the next decade. Gallery 40, or the Octagon Court, is one of the largest and most architecturally distinctive interior spaces at the V&A. Built in 1909 by Aston Webb, the Grade I listed gallery is a vast domed space, with deep arched alcoves carved out of its perimeter. In 1962, the gallery was dramatically reconfigured with the insertion of a steel framed mezzanine, and the original mosaic floor covered over.
Through a careful process of demolition and stripping back, 6a architects has revealed the quality of Webb’s original architecture. The mosaic floor has been painstakingly restored and the original entrances to the gallery reinstated. The 1960s steel frame mezzanine is also celebrated: cut back and infilled to a pure circular geometry, it is wrapped in a new balustrade of slender white steel, and its stiletto-like columns exposed. Three new circular lighting rings are suspended from the original iron roof truss to provide both ambient and flexible exhibition lighting for temporary exhibitions and a terrazzo cylindrical lift makes the mezzanine fully accessible and completes the orbital architecture.
The secondary architectural elements now sit lightly within the Edwardian volume, creating a new light and ethereal space in which 1909, 1962 and 2012 coexist.
Arper Showroom, Clerkenwell, London, 2012
A glazed façade wraps around an existing retail shell in Clerkenwell. Behind the glass, a landscape of concrete columns and unpainted plaster walls forms a background to the furniture of Italian manufacturer Arper. A patchwork of flush varying whites forms an inner building which frames vistas of furniture against the changing panorama of street life beyond.
The Stuff That Matters. Textiles collected by Seth Siegelaub for the CSROT, Raven Row, London, 2012
The collection of historic textiles, assembled by conceptual art pioneer Seth Siegelaub, is displayed for the first time in an exhibition at the contemporary art centre Raven Row.
6a architects designed a series of furniture throughout the galleries to display over 200 items from the collection. Curated by Sara Martinetti, Alice Motard and Alex Sainsbury, the objects range from fifth-century Coptic and Peruvian textiles, Renaissance to eighteenth-century silks and velvets, to Barkcloth and headdresses from Africa and the Pacific region.
In the eighteenth-century the buildings housing part of Raven Row accommodated two shops selling silk woven in the Spitalfields district. Exhibits here are arranged in shop-like counters displaying a range of European silks that were banned at the time by English trade laws.
Steamboat Museum, Competition runner-up, Windermere, Cumbria, 2011
The museum houses a collection of historic vessels from Thirteenth Century bog boats to record breaking speedboats located on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere in the English Lake District. The collection will rotate between being on display in the exhibition hall to use as pleasure trips on the lake or hours of conservation in the workshop. Four patinated copper roofs are arranged around a large courtyard enabling the movement of boats and people throughout the site. Suspended above ground and water they frame horizontal views between the tree canopy and the lake surface.
Roof volumes are formed from thin steel frame structures spanning across a number of concrete columns, containing vertical circulation and amenities. First floor walkways, humidity controlled galleries and restaurant are hung from the roof structure; boats pass underneath the suspended rooms across the water. Tall top lit main spaces permit the boats to rise and fall with the changing levels of the lake whilst allowing steam from the Victorian boats to dissipate.
Perforated copper cladding and willow screens cover the buildings, dappling sunlight onto buildings interiors and registering the reflection of light on the water below. A belvedere emerging just above the thick tree canopy is linked to the exhibition spaces and provides an extensive view of the full length of the lake.
Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey, Design Museum, London, 2011
The prolific career of the Dutch graphic designer Wim Crouwel was celebrated with a first British retrospective by the Design Museum designed by 6a architects. The exhibition spanned over 60 years of work, exploring Crouwel's innovative use of grid-based layouts and typography that had earned him the moniker 'Gridnik'. The gallery was stripped back and opened up, allowing a twenty-metre long white table to be inserted into the space, forming a subtle background to the works.
Exhibits are arranged across the continuous white surface, a blank page to the colorful intensity of the works. The shifts of the table move visitors past, around, and in-between the pieces, reminiscent of Crouwel's fondness for three-dimensional space within two-dimensional design. The exhibition is touring internationally beginning at the renowned Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
ICA, The Mall, London, 2011
6a architects carried out a six month residency at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) to explore the potential of opening up the building from within to form a larger more open kunsthalle through an ongoing series of interventions integrated into the exhibition programme. The first steps included opening the entrance and bookshop and the creation of a new studio space within former workshops.
South London Gallery, Peckham, London, 2010
Civic Trust Award Commendation 2012
Mies van der Rohe Award nomination 2011
New London Architecture Award 2011
The expansion of the South London Gallery designed by 6a architects provides new gallery spaces, a café, a flat for an artist in residence and a new education building. The original top lit gallery is one of the finest art spaces in London. The special character of the building has long inspired artists and has played a vital role in forming the SLG’s international reputation for shows by contemporary British artists such as Ryan Gander, Steve McQueen, Eva Rothschild and Michael Landy, alongside those by internationally established figures such as Chris Burden and Alfredo Jaar.
The extension to the gallery is made of three distinct interventions that transform the gallery from a singular gallery interior into an expanded sequence of interiors and exterior spaces hosting a range of different functions simultaneously.
Firstly, the neighbouring derelict house at no 67 has been refurbished to create a café on the ground floor, exhibition spaces above and a flat for an artist-in residence on the second floor. The new spaces follow the arrangement of the original but the architectural language is abstracted and reduced create a ghost-like image of the former house.
Behind the house a three-storey extension has been built to create a double height room leading to a link back to the gallery and, through the new Fox Garden to the Clore Education Studio.
Clore Education Studio
At the rear of the site, 6a has designed a new education building on the footprint of the original lecture theatre that was destroyed after World War II. Two surviving brick walls provided the natural start for the building which links the Fox Garden on one side and the gallery’s garden on the other. Continuing the architectural tradition established by the original buildings, the Clore Studio is a generous single volume topped by a central lantern and also develops themes from the house with exposed roof structure to create calmness and warmth.
Like so much at the South London Gallery, the overall simplicity of the space hides some surprise; the west wall pivots to open a continuous field between the back garden and the interior. At night the walls and shutters close the whole building down into an abstract dark box.
Raven Row, Contemporary art exhibition centre, Spitalfields, London, 2009
RIBA Award 2011
Mies van der Rohe Award nomination 2011
56 Artillery Lane, Spitalfields
London E1 7LS
Listed Grade 1
Raven Row, a new non-profit contemporary art exhibition centre, opened in 2009. Embedded in what Pevsner described as two of the finest surviving eighteenth century silk mercers’ houses in Spitalfields and a 1972 concrete framed office building, the project provides new contemporary art galleries in a semi-basement at the rear and a series of eighteenth century Rococo rooms over three floors at the front. Offices, two flats for residencies and studio space occupy the third and fourth floor.
Raven Row was built in the 1690’s but substantially remodeled by Hugenot silk mercers in 1754 and subsequently added to, converted, neglected, damaged and repaired over two and a half centuries. The latest intervention weaves itself through the buildings, informed by their history and in turn transforming them.
The new galleries to the rear are two distinct rooms echoing the domestic character of the 18c neighbours. They were excavated one and a half metres below ground level. The roof-lit courtyard gallery at the centre is calm and introspective. The adjacent gallery is side lit from Frying Pan Alley by a window creating a continuous view from the entrance through the full depth of the block.
Large charred timber rooflights above the courtyard gallery bear witness to the fire that ravaged the building in 1972 though some of the architecture survived. Charred timber also formed the moulds for a new cast iron façade on Frying Pan Alley (the Ornate Regency cast iron railings were stolen from the original façade in the 1960’s).
The burned timber and other new textures allude to the unwritten history of the place and introduce a raw, tactile texture to modern Spitalfields. Simple door knobs designed by the practice are indented with a soft thumb print and are left with the texture of the sand that formed them.
Furniture in the eighteenth century was usually light and fitted with drawers and pockets for paper, pen, ink, blotters, etc. so it could be moved easily to find the best light by the window or warmth by the fire. At Raven Row, both regular furniture and exhibition displays were designed to carry that sense of lightness and provisional occupation. All pieces are free standing and anticipate that any space in the building will be used in ways as yet unimagined.
During the design of Raven Row, over seventy photographs of interiors and exteriors of the two buildings were discovered at the London Metropolitan Archive. They form a continuous photographic record from 1905 to the mid 1970’s. Completely anonymous, this unique collection documents the grandeur and decline of Spitalfields in the twentieth century. The photograph became an important inspiration for the project to record and even recall some of the extraordinary social history which has passed through these walls alongside the recorded architectural heritage.
Two elderly sisters, Hannah and Rebecca Levy lived in the houses since the 1920’s and throughout the construction of Raven Row until their death in 2008 and 2010 respectively. Their home, which contains several items of furniture recorded in the archive photographs decades before, has not changed since the early 1970’s.
Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, Hayward Gallery, London, 2009
Curated by Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff, the exhibition formed a broad retrospective of the paintings of the American artist, Ed Ruscha. The project involved both a dramatic increase in display surfaces and a visual simplification of the gallery itself.
To provide more hanging space, freestanding walls were introduced within the galleries. Exhibition surfaces were painted white, whilst in opposition, surfaces not required for hanging paintings were stripped back to the original concrete of the Brutalist gallery.
K–Space, Hoxton, London, 2008
K-Swiss is a global sportswear brand renowned for its footwear, that also actively supports a range of cultural events including live music and private exhibitions. The project can transform at a moment’s notice, from retail space, displaying both new and classic K-Swiss products to an open, unbranded space for music, film or events.
Ten library archive units are adapted to combine display and storage. The units slide on rails to reveal or conceal products, or to adapt to temporary exhibits. The perforated polished stainless steel cladding shifts ambiguously between reflection, transparency and opacity.
Offley Works, Oval, London, 2007
Offley Works is group of six industrial buildings sharing a site deeply embedded amongst Victorian terraced suburbs in Oval, South London. The buildings were built from 1899–1956 for the pickling company Sharwoods. In 2007, 6a architects won a competition, run by the Architecture Foundation, the London Development Agency and Design for London, to transform Offley Works into a mix of uses including nine residential apartments and work spaces.
For cultural and sustainable ends, the existing buildings will be at the heart of their own regeneration; the architectural fabric of the site remains its single most important asset. Two interventions are added to the buildings; roof top apartments form a new roofscape whilst a long two-storey building is clad with a hand thrown brick screen.
Brick Tower, North London, 2007
A cluster of three residential buildings are linked at ground level by a single storey hall comprising retail, community services and roof gardens. The smallest building has a recognisably house-like form. The second building evolves the form into a more abstract expression - part house part crystalline solid. Finally the third and tallest building blurs the distinction between wall and roof to form a tower that abandons any association with the other archetypes.
As the buildings rise above the ground, the façades mimic the scale, spacing and proportion of the neighbouring Georgian facades. With every additional storey, the windows are progressively enlarged horizontally and vertically. Rising above the datum level of Georgian London, the top storeys are completely glazed, blending into reflections of sky and clouds and opening wide views over London’s skyline.
Hairywood, Old Street 2005 & Covent Garden 2008
Commissioned by the Architecture Foundation in 2005, Hairywood was designed in collaboration with fashion designers Eley Kishimoto, as a temporary public space to mark the entrance to the Foundation’s gallery on Old Street, East London. A small viewing space was cantilevered above the street to provide a quiet and playful break from the busy street below. It was inspired by the film set of Jacques Tati’s Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot and Eley Kishimoto’s fairytale inspired printed textiles.
The tower was re-built in Covent Garden in 2008 as part of Skin and Bones, an exhibition exploring the parallels between fashion and architecture at Somerset House.
JP House, South London, 2004
Located on a leafy residential street in Telegraph Hill, a three-storey house is remodeled and extended to accommodate a family with four young children. A large room is created on the ground floor, disrupting the longitudinal axis of the original house, orienting the interiors towards the side garden. At once play area and dining room, the space is lit from above with a pyramidal roof and skylight.
National Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow, Ireland, 2003
Home of the Éigse Art Festival, Carlow is a small Irish town which annually hosts one of the country’s most acknowledged arts events. The new building provides a major art gallery for the display of large sculpture and dedicated to the interaction of public, art and artists.
Conceived as a large barn, the proposal offers wide flexible spaces in a loose fit arrangement. Within its copper envelope, a tall public street forms an axis through its center forming galleries to either side and framing the neo-Gothic cathedral across the square.
Oki-ni Flagship Store, Savile Row, London, 2001
A felt landscape rests on a gently sloped oak tray, inserted into the existing concrete shell on Savile Row, home of traditional English tailoring. The fan shaped tray sits independently of its site leaving a series of perimeter spaces that conceal changing rooms and stairs behind the low oak walls. Clothes hang ambiguously from the low sides of the oak tray or on felt beds with a domestic familiarity.
Contractworld Award 2004
D&AD Award 2002, Environmental Design and Architecture
Design Week Award 2002, Best Retail Environment
FX Design Award 2002, Best Retail Design
Door Knob (Raven Row), 2009
Manufactured by izé exclusively for Raven Row.
Door Knob, 2002
The form of a traditional door knob is adapted to include a rubber door wedge. The door knob comes together with the wedge to make a multipurpose object.
Available from izé in bronze, stainless steel and aluminium.
A Light, 1999