Willis Road, Cambridge
Architecture, Planning, Conservation
When our clients first saw this large Victorian town house in a central conservation area of Cambridge they had visions of restoring its integrity and showcasing its heritage features. The property had been converted into rented flats which were suffering from the effects of poor maintenance and presented little to justify status as a ‘Building of Local Interest’. The Victorian detailing was in much need of love and attention and the small rear outdoor space resembled more of a wasteland than a garden. The clients had ambitions to convert the property back into a single family home, enabling their maturing family to move from their previous large, rural home to this highly sustainable city location.
PiP Architects were appointed to restore this dwelling to its former glory. A key aspect of the design brief was to marry the client’s love for light-industrial architecture with the Victorian features of the heritage building to create a bright open space.
Given the history of the building and its inclusion in a conservation area, great care was taken to retain and restore the front of the property to a high standard of authenticity using precision and craftsmanship. Keen to echo the arts and crafts workmanship of the Victorian features, PiP built strong relationships with local artisan traders to facilitate bespoke features throughout the project, such as the light-industrial feature staircase, handmade kitchen, built-in joinery and hung sliding doors.
The sense of luxury begins at the front door. The entry hallway was opened up to make way for a bespoke staircase which wraps around the stairwell, where a central skylight allows light to fall three storeys, highlighting the textured exposed brick work. A bespoke feature staircase made of artisan steel was specified to heighten the drama of the elevated space. The combination of old and new is best demonstrated at the hearth. The log burner sits beneath an exposed brick chimney breast which appears to cantilever above it, propped up by a cross-hair steel post supporting a steel channel beam which wraps around the chimney breast. This illusion is a playful addition that ensures it as a visible centre piece when entering the property.
The modern extension has been designed to overcome site constraints while maximising living accommodation with the addition of an office to the rear. Made particularly relevant in the present day as work from home has become more common, the visual and literal separation of these two spaces is an important aspect as people are realizing the importance setting boundaries to enable a healthy work life balance. The extension wraps around the boundaries of the site to create an enclosed haven of concrete, corten and greenery. The sense of seclusion induced by envelopment is supplemented by the relaxing sound of running water, making the garden a place of solitude amongst the busyness of the city. The overall effect of enclosure created amidst the symbiosis of nature and manmade materials is one of tranquility.
2022 CIAT AT Awards
The Award for Excellence in Architectural Technology 2022 – Finalist