“House of Trace” may sound like a new American TV series, but it is the name of a worthwhile result of an architectural concept: a small house, a (barely) freestanding building that completes a row of terrace houses. They crosshatch narrow parcels of land in South London, UK, forming a buildinghistoric construct, that the architects say can be read “as a product of the circumstances, the time, the place, the people involved, even the amount of money that was available at the time”.

Project details

Reference object
House of Trace, London, United Kingdom
Architect
Tsuruta architects
Client
Private
Facing bricks used

Terca Sheerwater Silver Yellow Stock

House of Trace, United Kingdom

House of Trace, United Kingdom ©Tim Crocker

House of Trace, United Kingdom

House of Trace, United Kingdom ©Tim Crocker

House of Trace, United Kingdom

House of Trace, United Kingdom ©Tim Crocker

House of Trace, United Kingdom

House of Trace, United Kingdom ©Tim Crocker

House of Trace, United Kingdom

House of Trace, United Kingdom ©Tim Crocker

House of Trace, United Kingdom

House of Trace, United Kingdom ©Tim Crocker

A sensitive intervention

This approach led to a sensitive intervention, but not an inconspicuous continuation of the old characteristic style. On the contrary: viewers can sense the memory of the former building, but can also recognise its confident continuation into the present day. First of all, a worthless extension was torn down. It had featured the mono-pitched roof which is typical for the area. This feature was incorporated into the new, flat-roofed extension as an imprint of the historic building. An old window had been visibly walled up; the new openings about the exposed steel profiles of the load-bearing structure. When the old building fabric was laid bare, the architects discovered further features which the building had acquired in the course of its history. For example, a thin wall had shifted, leading to cracks. These were laid bare and left visible in the hallway. In the refurbished layout, the bathroom and kitchen are now in the middle; a light well, onto which the master bedroom opens, provides light from the inside of the building.

Stories for generations

With an eye to the future, the new extension was left without render wherever possible, so that it could accumulate traces of use. The house will have lots to tell later generations. Only the walls in the children’s rooms and bedrooms are rendered. The house has already been imprint of the hands of the builders, but its future memory will be also characterised by the slow ageing process which will affect the bespoke copper and brass installations over the course of time.

Finding the right components

All of the building materials came from the local building supplies store. The architects previously tested all of the components and details and developed the design of the conversion in 3-D. The furnishings are inexpensive. They included benches and beds with a concertina foundation, which can be used as storage spaces. The building materials used were light, contrasting facing bricks, painted steel profiles, glazed white pine, birch plywood, Medium-density fibre boards, copper tubing and glazed ‘Metro tiles’.

Brick combination

The load-bearing new walls are composed mainly of silver yellow bricks. As the manufacture of uniform bricks would have been too expensive, some of them were whitewashed with a special mortar. Both solid bricks and bricks with air chambers were used, with a phenolic foam board between them. Some of the walls were insulated on the inside and clad with timber panels or plasterboard.
 
Our intent was to keep a sense of memory, while simultaneously allowing the new intervention to have its own identity. As we uncovered the original building fabric, we discovered the history of the house.
Taro Tsuruta 

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