Unlike many of our European counterparts, Londoners have never really taken fully to apartment living. It’s perhaps ironic, then, that the mansion block typology works so well in many parts of the capital, achieving density with sensitivity and operating at a communal, yet human, scale. Our contemporary mansion block investigates how the typology can work for modern living: getting the most out of the site for the developer, and making residents feel at home entering through efficient, but special, shared spaces before finding their own bright and spacious feeling apartment.
The site fronts onto a busy road but falls away at the back, where it has views out over Highgate Golf Club, and we used this change in level to integrate valuable basement parking into the scheme, concealing it under a raised garden terrace. There are two apartments on each of the four above-ground levels and, by negotiating with local planners from the early stages, we were granted permission to add a ninth unit in a set-back top storey: the key to the scheme’s commercial viability.
The corners of the block toe the same line as the neighbouring buildings, and we added bay windows – a familiar feature from the traditional mansion block – that crank forward of this, increasing the floor area, inviting in more light and opening up oblique views. The central entrance hallway is protected by a covered porch recessed into the façade, and gives residents direct views and access through to the rear gardens.
We chose red brick for the front façade to reflect the materials of the inter-war mansion blocks opposite and, in keeping with the 1930s ‘liner’ blocks nearby, a contrasting white brick for the south-facing garden elevation. Both are detailed with gold-coloured metalwork: as window surrounds, balustrading to the balconies, and as a crown of cladding to the penthouse apartment, marking the block as a beacon on the main road into London.