This project was an alteration for West African clients to create a family home for them, and a clean, contemporary canvas for their collection of art, furniture and textiles. The key intervention was to insert an axial gallery running the length of the plan from the entrance, and opening up to the park-like garden to the north. The axis orders the internal spaces into two wings, a bedroom wing to the west, and the living spaces to the east. The bedroom wing retains the proportions of the existing house with smaller, intimate rooms. In the living wing, the east wall is retained and a new roof inserted to create a tall, generous volume containing a series of inter-leading rooms that can be opened up and closed off as required.
The entrance to the house is carefully controlled through a series of courtyards in a clear reference to traditional West African homesteads, which have tightly managed degrees of privacy. This also creates opportunities for drama and delight that exploit the constraints of the existing house.
The ordering and clarity is carried through in the use of materials and colour. Externally, the walls are a dark graphite, chosen to offset the planting - with splashes of bright colour to the soffits of the slabs. Internally, pale walls, floors and ceilings create a light, monochromatic backdrop to the art and furniture.
Climatically, the house works simply for easy family living. It is cool in summer with large, glazed doors and windows that slide away, opening up the house to the garden and maximum airflow. In winter, the doors close up but let in north light to warm the spaces. Light enters the house from a variety of windows and skylights enabling one to be constantly aware of the movement of the sun and the changing of the seasons.