The Graveyard House by Eldridge-Smerin Architects

published in: Architecture, Interiors By Marcia Argyriades, 16 February 2011

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photo © Richard Powers
Elliott House by Eldridge-Smerin Architects  in North London portrays a mystifying and enigmatic statement in a somewhat spine-chilling location for some; at least we could say that the neighbors are quiet!  Overlooking a cemetery Elliot House makes a bold, dynamic statement with its black granite façade, while the interior makes an even more daring statement regarding its design.  But before you explore Elliot House we would like to thank one of Yatzer’s favorite architectural photographers, Richard Powers who has done his magic once more with exceptional photography.
 

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Eldridge-Smerin Architects

The house reveals its true temperament when it is seen from among the gravestones of the upper section of Highgate Cemetery; the building opens up to the lush and sprawling graveyard through glazing and elevated balconies.  Elliot House replaced a building which was constructed in the 1970s, which was found to be at risk of structural failure.  The site was originally sold off by the cemetery many years ago; the graveyard is home to Karl Marx, Christina Rossetti, George Eliot and the graves of many other writers and artists.  The gothic character was amplified after becoming abandoned and overgrown in the 1970s; today, it is in the hands of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.  Furthermore, during the construction procedure and the uncluttering of the cemetery, Elliot discovered that the grave of his own great grandfather – who he always assumed had been buried in Scotland – was just thirty feet away!
 

photo © Richard Powers

Elliott House is a four storey building which has been designed on a slope; it takes full advantage of the sloping landscape and maximizes the linkages with the graveyards landscape by arranging the program of the house.  By doing so, Eldridge-Smerin Architects have placed the main living spaces on the last floor.  The main living quarters consist of both communal and private spaces; an open plan kitchen and dining area which features a retractable roof, but also opens up to a furnished balcony, a study and a master bedroom are also situated on the upper floor, creating an autonomous living area for travel photographer Richard Elliott.  The other floors are mainly used by Elliott’s visitors, a large living room on the second floor with large openings that reach out to the landscape, guest bedrooms on the first floor, and a home cinema in the basement.  According to Richard Elliott who was also trained as a chartered surveyor apart from being a travel photographer, “the design was all about making the most of the views and the environment around the house.  The position of the house by the cemetery is by far the most important consideration and we really wanted to embrace that.”

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Richard Powers

The program has been developed in such a way that the upper floor is an autonomous living space where Elliott can spend most of his time; the kitchen has been also positioned on the top floor along with a dining room as Elliott finds it “the most communal space of any house.”  The white lacquered double-row kitchen with the stainless steel countertops and the retractable skylight blends in nicely with the poured concrete walls and ceiling which have been used throughout the house.  Large glass window openings bring an abundance of natural light into the concrete interior giving it a vibrant character.  Eames Vitra Wire Chairs DKX-2 have been used to compliment the interior Opus Magnum dining table while Eames Vitra Wire Chairs DKR have been used for the balcony table, in addition two white Vitra Panton chairs by Verner Panton allow for visitors to sit and ponder the gothic cemetery.  A study desk in glass is a bespoke piece, designed by Eldridge-Smerin and made by Italian manufacturer Santambrogio. While the floors throughout the house are large black granite laser cut squared tiles, with some glass floor openings by Compass Glass.

photo © Richard Powers

A concrete U type staircase leads to the living room creating a play of light between the concrete stairs; a pink neon light strip adds a modern touch throughout the stairway.  The living room which is located right below follows the same interior concrete design scheme, the floors are again large black granite laser cut squared tiles, while a French (sourced from Diligence, London), steel fireplace hangs in the space.  Flap Sofa in black leather by Edra and a Ligne Roset Togo Relax lounge chair set the design tone for a relaxed, chilled out living room, where Elliott’s visitors can enjoy happy and serene moments while pondering through the large window openings to the land of the dead.

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Richard Powers

A sustainable environmental approach allows for not only the strong use of natural light and the benefits of solar gain from the south facing windows, but also includes natural ventilation techniques for summer cooling and a green roof.  The embedded energy within the concrete was lessened by using a local supplier that makes good use of recycled material while the concrete floor pads also help to regulate the temperature of the house. Triple glazing windows add to the thermal efficiency of the building.
 

photo © Richard Powers

Despite the character of this astonishing home, with the distinct and contrasting elements, Elliott House manages to open itself to the majestic gothic landscape of the dead through the large glass window openings.  Although the house itself has no gothic elements, the tone set by the black granite and the cement application in the interiors have set Elliott House as one of the modern landmarks in this part of London, having it already picking up new architectural awards for Eldridge–Smerin.

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Richard Powers

photo © Richard Powers

sources:

 Eldridge-Smerin Architects, Richard Powers, Dominic Bradbury

  • friend
    petit | 2011-02-18 09:03:42

    Beautiful colors. Minimalism is a good contrast to the bushes, shrubs, trees, and weeds on the ground

  • friend
    Erwin | 2011-02-20 18:21:40

    First of all: I love the design and the finesse of this house. I would not browse this website otherwise. It's an architectural masterpiece. But! I do question some of the claims made in this description: "A sustainable environmental approach allows for not only the strong use of natural light and the benefits of solar gain from the south facing windows, but also includes natural ventilation techniques for summer cooling and a green roof. The embedded energy within the concrete was lessened by using a local supplier that makes good use of recycled material while the concrete floor pads also help to regulate the temperature of the house." South facing windows are indeed a must to benefit from solar gain in the winter. But without screens of some sort, the thermal heat build-up in the summer will make air conditioning a necessity and this completely renders the solar winter gains obsolete. Ventilation will not help. You need to prevent the sun hitting the glass! Those concrete floor slabs only keep cool-ish for 48 hours tops. And the negative impact of concrete is not so much due to the cobbles and sand in it, but mostly because of the cement production. Using recycled material is nice, but you need just as much cement. All architects need to take courses in passive house building. Not every house needs to be passive, but every house design will benefit from the use of the principles...

  • friend
    George | 2011-03-24 19:09:05

    Nice house, especially the big windows, the open kitchen and the fireplace.

  • friend
    Garyfallia | 2011-03-31 20:12:51

    Its the kind of minimalism that you don't get to be afraid to live in it.

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