For those of you who like gadgets in your homes, this one might be for you...
We were asked by a developer to look into kitting out a typical London home as an 'internet-of-things' showcase house. Normally we might find this level of unbridled commercialism a bit off-putting. We're better known for design which values human connection; We're not as well-known for 'techie' architecture. But it is not like those two things have to be mutually exclusive? So we took this as an opportunity to see how much gear we could pack in whilst not losing sight of the fact that our designs are about people coming together.
Often with 'showcase homes of the future', the dwelling itself is usually a generic new-build - ie. 3-bed, 2-bath, detached house, garden at front and back. But we are a London practice working mostly on London projects, more likely than not to involve an existing building.
The property our developer sourced was an end-of-terrace building in Clapham, in the London Borough of Lambeth. They wanted us to design it to be interchangeably flexible for use either as an HMO (usually better for income yield) or a family home (usually better for capital growth).
The building was formerly a shop at the ground floor with rooms above. We do care about the future of the high street, but this was just a disused one-off corner shop and not part of a bigger retail parade. No one would really miss it if we converted it to an all-residential building. However, the 'shopfront' architecture would need a deftly sensitive touch - planners usually don't like to see it disappear completely, but you also don't want people to think it still functions as a shop instead of being a home.
Starting from the outside-in, the existing shopfront is recomposed with domestically scaled windows to appear like it was always meant to be this way - turning the architecture of the former shopfront into a feature. Electric glass windows control transparency to provide privacy when needed. Up at the roof, solar panels are positioned at south-facing surfaces, the roof tiles are pollution-eating and rainwater is channelled for collection and storage. Along the side, where there would normally be a fence wall enclosing the rear garden, we've integrated a drop-off locker with door panels in slip brick to match the building. As it faces the street, this drop-off function would be useable by both the residents for deliveries as well as the general public. (Perhaps a contemporary nod to the public amenity the building once provided as a shop?)
Moving inside from top down on the upper (first) floor are two double bedrooms, both with en-suite bathrooms. The bedrooms would feature: bedside tables with integrated data and charging points, variable light luminosity and colour control, sleep monitor, posture adjusting mattresses, self-making bedding. The bathrooms would feature: weight scale built into floor tiles, interactive mirror with health and grooming monitor, solid surface cladding with backlit interactive display and mood glow lighting, rainwater shower.
At the ground floor, starting from the rear, the corner allows us driveway access for car/scooter/cycles. Electrical charging points with battery storage would be connected to the solar panels above as well as the mains. An intelligent garage door would automatically open when it detects resident vehicles want to return. Going back to the drop-off wall - we've actually made this as a two-storey interface structure which stretches down to the lower level. From the car parking bay, steps lead down to the lower level whilst passing by a vertical green wall - with terraced herb garden and integrated rainwater storage and irrigation. Inside, more bedrooms - with the front room reversible as a reception room. In the middle next to the bathroom is the home control closet - with heat and light control, electricity monitoring, thermal scanner for heat loss, hot water storage, broadband control, and robo-vacuum control and dock. At the 'front' door are inbuilt security systems including facial recognition, fingerprint control and CCTV.
The lower garden level houses all the communal spaces. The courtyard patio at rear as well as the lightwell at front make this a large open-plan and double-aspect space. At the front, the sitting area is differentiated by a sunken pit. Retractable room dividers on sliding rails can close this space off for privacy and use as a home cinema, immersive gaming, virtual reality, etc. The kitchen-dining area is open plan with an island. A fireplace defines the middle of the space between kitchen-diner and sunken pit. The kitchen diner opens directly onto the courtyard patio at rear. On one side of the courtyard patio is the drop-off wall - with mail chutes and parcel drops from above, along with integrated ground source heat pump and composting facilities. On the other side of the courtyard is the green wall with steps to the car parking bay above. Underneath the car parking bay at the rear is the garden studio - useful as a remote office, yoga/meditation studio, or gym with remote health and fitness assistance.
Anything we forgot to add?