31/44 Architects’ ambition for this end-of-terrace plot in East Dulwich, south London, was to design a contemporary dwelling that both references and develops the character and rhythm of the street while also defying conventions. The existing terrace uses a warm red brick as a highlight material to trim openings and to define or cap elements in the facades. Likewise, but at a larger scale, the new house employs red brick to define the end of the terrace, but with a striking, contemporary facade that is still of its context.
A wire-cut brick was specifically chosen to give a crisp finish to the facade. This, paired with mortar and patterned concrete panel – both pigmented to match the brick – and the use of brick lintels, give the sense of a homogenous, geometric facade that reads as one whole surface, despite its modular make-up.
The geometry of the brickwork at Red House was also carefully considered. The brickwork is coursed to match that of its neighbour, and the relief pattern of the concrete panel was designed so that the points of the pattern coincide with brick dimensions and relate directly to the running bond of the brickwork facade above.
The principal architectural move on the main elevation was to ‘reappropriate’ the arched entranceway of the terrace as a large window onto a double-height hallway. The window is frameless, the arch is stripped of detail and the span is achieved with a precast, pigmented concrete panel. The patterning in the panel resonates with the decorative tile entrance thresholds of the Victorian terraces.
In contrast to the arresting red brick of the main facade, the front boundary wall is built from reclaimed stocks, with a standard mortar to represent a ‘garden wall’. This not only extends the adjacent wall, but ensures the focus is on the main facade of the house. It also tends to make the house feel smaller and more in scale with its Victorian neighbours, as the stock brick element recedes into the language of gardens and boundaries. The garden wall also plays a role in how the new building resolves the complex site geometry, imposed by a kink in the road and angled flank of the adjacent house.
While the front garden wall is more muted, the red brick chimney stack to the rear provided 31/44 with an opportunity to form a striking feature at a ‘pivot’ point in the site geometry and a mitigating measure in over-looking issues both from and to neighbouring properties.
While the exterior of the building is bright and colourful, the interior is deliberately minimal, ready for an occupant to make their own. Glimpses of red brick, seen in the courtyards or internally on the chimney breast, provide accents to the mute interior, bringing in some of the vibrancy of the outside. According to the architect, “using brick, a relatively ubiquitous material, allows the house to be humble and deferential to its existing neighbours, yet the bright red colour with mortar coloured to match, creates a building that is also bold and highly individual”.