Projects, Residential

Foley Road

Location : Claygate, Surrey, England
Client : Private
Area : 100sqm
Status : Tender

Our client came to us to assist them in reorganising their home, a period semi-detached workers house in the historic town of Claygate. Over time the house has undergone a number of piece-meal extensions and additions that have limited the potential of the house for modern family life.

At this stage we are developing the design through a process of collaboration with our client. By breaking the ground floor of the house down in to a series of components for which we developed a number of interchangeable options our client were able to see the implications of various configurations and to quickly see which options worked best for them.

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Community, Cultural, Education, Projects

Under the Canopy

“Under the Canopy” is our proposal for the Woodlands Trust Competition
“Under the Canopy” is rooted in the instinct of a farmer building a barn or a soldier making camp: to raise a roof and take cover underneath. It begins with a broad truss of interlocking timbers, raised on wooden columns. Under this roof, the main room is an open space that gives onto the landscape.
It is entirely flexible, surrounded by doors and shutters that be closed shut or thrown open depending on the weather and the many differing needs of the visitors. To the fourth side is a private, insulated block containing office, kitchen and toilets.
The end grains of the timbers in the truss can be painted in memoriam. When interlinked to create the joint, they act an evocation of the strong bonds forged during the war, as well as dappling the sunlight passing through in an echo of a forest canopy.
The straightforward panelised system lends itself to organic growth as needs require and funds allow, so that the building can expand and the rooms within be transformed or upgraded. Much as generations of farmers changed and repaired their buildings, these spaces will thrive with the forest.

Projects, Residential

Summerfield Avenue

Location : Queens Park, London, England
Client : Private
Area : 190sqm
Status: Completed
This project on Summerfield Avenue is a full refurbishment of a Victorian mid-terrace property in the Queens Park conservation area, for which we added a new dormer, rear and side return to the property. Having recently purchased the property, the clients were keen to move forward quickly in order to accommodate their growing family. With that in mind, Variant Office brought the scheme from concept to tender in under 3 months.

In order to make the most of the deep plan of the existing house, a glazed side return brings south light deep into the interior. On the ground floor, a sequence of rooms from front to rear allow for a visual connection from front façade to rear garden, culminating in a spacious kitchen-dining area with a lowered floor level.

The rear extension is clad in brick in keeping with the conservation area.

Careful attention is paid to the refurbishment of the upper storeys, with bespoke built-in joinery and the addition of an extra bedroom and two en-suites. A new stair from first to second floor is designed as a discrete piece of furniture, formed entirely of birch plywood. The stair sits tightly within the hallway, allowing sufficient headroom below and above without penetrating the roofline – a necessity in this conservation area, where a dormer cannot extend to the full width of the building.

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Cultural, Projects

Alvar Aalto Museum Extension

This was a competition to propose a new link space for a museum space between two museums in Jyväskylä, in Finland – both designed by the great Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. According to the competition brief, this new link space was to connect the ground floor of the Museum of Central Finland to the first floor of the Alvar Aalto Museum, via a ramp. After close study of the existing situation, we proposed a radical yet appropriate alternative.

Currently, circulation around and between the two museums is complex, unclear, and not always universally accessible. We proposed that the new link space could join together more than two floors – in our scheme, a long ramps links the every floor of the Alvar Aalto Museum with the two key floors of the Museum of Central Finland. This ramp knots both buildings tightly together in an organic swirl. This is an organic architecture derived from simple needs, an echo of Aalto’s spirit.

The ramp that we propose wraps itself around the new shop, serving as both circulation

and façade. It peels lightly off from the side of the Aalto museum, continuing the axis created by the stepped pools. This movement carries the lowest part of the ramp under the coils of the ramp above, creating a sheltered porch space overlooking a set of landscaped terraces, inspired by Aalto’s stepped pools. The ramp then spirals inwards as it rises, enclosing the space inside and deferring to the great building on either side.

The ramp that we propose has no start or finish point, as it serves to facilitate connection between the disparate spaces of the two museums. At the top – the exhibition level of the Museum of Central Finland – the ramp reinstates Aalto’s original entrance to the museum. From here, it spirals downward to brush gently against the Aalto museum, and allow access to the exhibition floor. The ramp continues to the entrance floor of the Museum of Central Finland, at which level it opens onto the shopfloor, and then continues downward to join the Café Alvar at the entrance level of the Aalto museum. A revolving door allows exit from the shop to the terraces outside.

Taking cues from the patterns of Aalto’s façades, our building is screened by a forest of timber fins that front either solid panels or glazed panes, creating a rhythm of open and closed that also dapples the light that passes through to the centre. The shop itself sits under a roof pierced by a large oculus rooflight, like an island in a Finnish lake. A single ramp and a single central space thus create a multiplicity of subtle spaces that both serve Aalto’s works and express their own integrities.

Location : Jyväskylä, Finland
Client : Alvar Aalto Foundation / City of Jyväskylä
Sector : Cultural
Area :  640 sqm
Status: Competition

Projects, Residential

Raeburn Street

Architecture Design : Variant Office

Location : Brixton London

Client : Private

Sector : Residential
Area :  50sqm
Status: Planning

Variant office were appointed to develop a loft extension and reorganise the kitchen of this mid terrace property in Brixton on a tight budget.

Working entirely within Permitted Development we proposed maximisiing the kitchen through its reorganisation which allowed us to open the rear wall to better connect with the garden.  Large areas of fixed glazing are articulated by opening timber shutters.

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Community, Projects, Residential

New Homes for Neighbourhoods I

Architecture Design : Variant Office and Erect Architecture

Location : Natal Road, Brighton, UK
Client : Brighton + Hove City Council

Sector : Residential
Area :  100 sqm
Status: Competition

Brighton and Hove City Council organised a competition to regenerate small pockets of leftover space throughout the city. Variant Office, in collaboration with Erect Architecture, proposed this design for an unused piece of land on a steep slope between two existing houses.


To make this a place for a family home, we propose a design carefully moulded to its context. Starting with a minimal rectangular volume following the line of the garage next door, we push and pull the planes of the façade and roof to take account of the complex conditions.

At the ground floor, this sculpting creates a sheltered entrance porch; at the first floor it reveals a Juliet balcony that respects the neighbour’s views. To the rear, the first floor pop-out echoes the recess in the front, while above the half-landing the roof drops and brings light in from above.

The proposed house is brick clad, consistent with the material of its neighbours. Its materiality relates to the adjacent garages and ties the new house visually into the existing context. The recesses to the façade create a lively sculptural rhythm.

This is a generous family home with four-bedrooms, fully accessible to Lifetime standards. Entry is to the west, through a hallway which leads straight to a large living/ kitchen/ dining area, which opens directly to the garden. The stair sits visible at the side of this living space and leads to a more private second family room, which overlooks the double-height space below. The bedrooms upstairs are arranged with views both front and back.

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Community, Projects, Residential

New Homes for Neighbourhoods II

Architecture Design : Variant Office and Erect Architecture

Location : Brighton, UK
Client : Brighton + Hove City Council

Sector : Residential
Area :  375 sqm
Status: Competition

Brighton and Hove City Council organised a competition to regenerate small pockets of leftover space throughout the city. Variant Office, in collaboration with Erect Architecture, proposed this scheme for an unused site hidden behind a ring of semi-detached houses: it is an urban mews in a suburban neighbourhood.

A key feature of the Rotherfield Crescent site is that the project could not disrupt access to the lock-up garages on the edge of the leftover space. For this reason, the proposed scheme consists of four terraced houses pulled to the south of the site to minimise overshadowing the neighbours. This strategy leaves the entire perimeter free, and creates two outdoor places: one behind the houses, which is divided into terraced private gardens that soak in afternoon sunshine, and one in front of the houses, which becomes a shared courtyard for all of the neighbours.

There are three three-bedroom houses and one two-bedroom house, all fully designed to Lifetime Homes standard, and all either dual- or triple- aspect. Each house plan responds to its particular condition, but they all echo the same spatial ideas. In every case, a double-height space is provided overlooking a generous living/dining area.

To minimise visual impact the roofs are flat, but the angled ceiling above the stair echoes the pitched roofs of the neighbouring houses, and articulates the façade. The building fabric is brick, in keeping with the historical precedent of the area.

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Community, Projects

Misty Mountain Kindergarten

Location : Molewa, Ruichang, China
Client : Hua Yan Group
Area : N/A
Status: Competition

The Misty Mountain is a kindergarten in a city. The built area is large and the plot ratio high for a kindergarten: we must allow for 4000sqm plus parking. On an acutely-angled site with on-grade parking, this became particularly challenging. Thus, we determined our key design challenges to be threefold:
one, create a dense building which still retains a sense of low scale;
two, ensure engagement with the city while keeping the children private and secure;
three, allow for strong internal-external links, with each classroom having access to its own terrace,
four, provide a sunny playground of sufficient scale.

Projects, Residential, Uncategorized

Beddington Gardens

Location : Carshalton, London, England
Client : Private
Area : £150,000
Status: Pre-Planning

The clients at Beddington Gardens appointed us to extend their house by providing an orangery to the rear of the property. The existing house was large and similar to a lot of older houses had been subject to piecemeal extensions over the years. By looking at the opportunities available within the existing envelope we were able to develop an alternative strategy, which provided them with the space they required within the exisitng curtilege of the house. This allowed us to speed up the overall programme by removing the need for planning and a protracted party wall process with the adjoining properties.

This internal reorganisation in turn freed equity, allowing them to convert their attic into 3 rooms under permitted development. Which would allow them to continue to live on site during the reorganisation of the main house. We are currently finalising the tender documents for this preliminary phase of the works.

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Art, Projects

Inverted Aquatic Lounge

Location : Rotherhithe, London, England
Client : Self realised
Area : N/A
Status: Complete

The ideas developed in the ‘-scape prototype’ were further developed for the second iteration, entitled “Inverted Aquatic Lounge.” Here, again, lay-flat hose was used to create a seat, but taking into account the properties of the material tested in the prototype, a far more advanced and fluid form was created. An ergonomically refined seat was designed, following the contours of an ideal chair, and carefully composed to occupy a tight space in the terrace of the gallery.

The lay-flat hose was conceptualised even more so as a unifying element, set proud of a hidden steel frame, and looping row by row to generate the entire membrane from a single continuous coil. The end of the coil hangs from one of a set of steel bars crossing the ceiling. These steel bars hold clear plastic bags, hanging past eye level, which serve as habitats for tropical aquatic life forms.

This interpretation of the same language of hose, steel, and plant here creates a spatially compressed moment, where the comfort and ease of the seat and the softness of the vegetation is counterposed by the industrial steel and the spatial complexity of movement through this enveloping sculpture.

The piece was installed at Horatio Jr in collaboration with Rachael Champion as the second part to the exhibition ‘Architecture of Enjoyment’ curated by Marcelle Joseph. The exhibition will run from MAy 9th to June 9th 2015