Palmwood House

Palmwood House in London, England by Undercurrent Architects

Photographs are by David Butler.

Palmwood House is located in London's South Lambeth area, on a small triangular plot at the oblique intersection of two streets. Undercurrent Architects envisioned their project for a single-family house as "a prototype building for problematic urban sites." Constrained by "height restrictions, acute boundaries, failed development plans and conservation controls," the solution nevertheless provides generous indoor and outdoor spaces "despite its restricted volume."

The triangular floor plan is split into three areas on the ground floor: an open living/kitchen/dining, a bedroom, and a walled courtyard. Above is another bedroom and a roof terrace that overlooks the courtyard. Natural light is brought inside via the courtyard and terrace, small openings on the street, and skylights to the ground-floor bedroom and stair. In each case the spaces are generously lit while privacy is maintained.

So how can the design of Palmwood House become a prototype for other sites? And can it become a prototype for those sites that do not have the exact same zoning, footprint, and landmark restrictions? Other trianguar sites in the area can be improved by designs like this that carry the street wall and take advantage of corners for outdoor space and natural light. Also the brick base and wood top floor are contextual yet unique material applications that helps the building stand out even when dwarfed by its neighbors.

Regardless of the exact conditons of future infill projects, this house illustrates an approach to site and program that looks for opportunities in the constraints and takes advantage of every square inch of floor space. Beyond working with the site's limitations to develop a design "with a gradation of spaces, views and daylight," the architects utilized sustainable practices (low energy, reused materials, advanced building systems) so the building's ecological footprint reflects its small physical one.