Concrete House

A stepped concrete screen frames interior and exterior living within a sunny London garden

The essence of this project is a ‘screen’ wall of monolithic concrete. Its form encloses a courtyard garden, a contemporary hortus conclusus, hidden from neighbours’ windows and with its own sheltered microclimate. Built for a family of sun-worshippers to take advantage of the south facing aspect, the concrete acts as a heat sink to prolong the daytime warmth into the evening.

Our clients requested a ‘grown-up’ extension to enjoy now their children are teenagers. Practically, they wanted a ‘messy’ side entrance with bike storage, study space and a TV room that was visually, but not audibly, connected to the rest of the house. The kitchen was also moved from the front to the rear to allow views into the garden while cooking.

Achieving a consistent, smooth finish for the concrete wall was the most technically challenging part of the design, as well as the biggest concern for the client. We worked closely with the contractor to build precise formwork, and developed an exacting specification for the mix and pour with concrete specialist David Bennett. The concrete is strong and monumental, but also smooth like fine marble, or even ‘soft’ to the touch like suede. It provides a powerful, yet calming, backdrop to the intense greens and delicate foliage of the garden – especially two beautiful mature trees, which have been carefully retained close by.

There was a wonderful moment in construction when the formwork was struck and the only element present above ground was the stepped concrete wall standing in space. Walking around this ‘screen,’ interior and exterior spaces were blurred, one being an inversion of the other. This feeling remains tangible after completion when looking or moving from inside to outside and back again through the stepped plan. The intensity is accentuated in the use of reflection in glazing and mirrors.

April 2019 | Concrete House featured in Architecture Today

April 2019 | Concrete House featured in the AJ


James Daykin / Marta Llorens / Hannah Bowers / Joe Lyth


ELIZABETH'S STORY | Paul and I had lived in our house for more than ten years so we had a clear sense of what we needed from the house to better work for our growing family.

Our brief to Daykin Marshall Studio emphasised flow from the original house into the new areas, with open views and vistas throughout, integrating it with the garden and creating intimate and private spaces for different family members yet without causing isolation.

James, Marta and the team listened, interpreted these ideas and very successfully delivered on the brief. Our house is a rather austere 1950’s property and the studio has respectfully echoed this in an ostensibly simple yet powerful and above all calm design.

DMS advocated the use of concrete from the outset and while the realisation of their vision was not without its technical difficulties, the results vindicated their faith in the material. The solidity of the concrete augments the sense of tranquillity we feel in the house. Externally, the orthogonal concrete is juxtaposed against an informal mature garden and the contrast serves to enhance both. Precision in the detailing of what is ultimately a very restrained design was paramount and the resulting balance all adds to the overriding sense of calm the extension lends to our house (as calm as a house of teenagers can ever be).

Over 450 people came to visit Concrete House when it was open for Open House London in September 2018! A big thank you to all those that came and to our amazing clients Paul & Elizabeth

Concrete sample panel in preparation