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Tortoise Enclosure

Tortoise Enclosure

Involving an unorthodox brief to house ten tortoises and a client eager to commission an exemplar of ecologically responsive design, this project synthesises form and materials to create a compact yet highly striking structure. Occupying a garden site in Northern Ireland, it takes the form of a 2.8m high curved stone wall that defines and conceals the tortoise house. Bands of roughly chipped sandstone varying in depth and length powerfully express the thickness and texture of the stone. Drip details are deliberately omitted, so the wall will evolve over time in a natural and beautiful way,

Beyond the wall, the tortoise house is constructed from highly insulated timber walls and a frameless, triple-glazed roof. The refined, frameless glass detail creates the illusion of an enclosure open to the sky, maximising light and warmth. Treated glass prevents overheating. Within the minimal interior, a streamlined kitchen provides a food preparation and bathing area for the tortoises. Underfloor heating is controlled by a thermostat to maintain an optimum temperature all year round.

The walls of the enclosure are clad in cedar slats treated and protected by charring, a technique based on traditional Japanese construction. The cedar is allowed to burn until it is blackened and charred, effectively sealing it without the need for chemical treatments which can damage the environment. Employed for the first time in the UK, the technique results in a long-lasting and visually alluring finish. Elegant bronze detailing protects the cedar and counterpoints the rich tones of the wood.

The combination of rough stone and smooth burnt timber gives the building a distinctive presence that merges with the garden landscape while providing a functional enclosure for its venerable reptilian residents. As tortoises are famous for their longevity, the project is also an apt manifestion of Paul McAneary Architects philosophy of wabi sabi, in which elements are subtly transmuted through age and use. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract Value Private
Location Nothern Ireland
Client Private
Date 2010 – 2011
Area 8m2
Design Team Paul McAneary Architects
Design Service From design concept to detailed design to the end of construction, interior design, lighting design, glazing design, landscape design, structural design, material creation, survey, planning, building control, 3D visualisation
Main Contractor L. S. Construction
Supplier The Plank Co, Top Glass, Thomas Rooney & Sons Ltd, Rathbanna Limited
Press 2013 BD New Architects 2013, 2010 ‘Masonary Overview’, AJ Specification, November 2010
Awards 2012 Surface Design Awards – Highly Commended for Housing Exterior Surface Award

Timber Roof House

Timber Roof House

The focus of this residential remodelling is a new roof terrace enclosed by a beautifully constructed timber balustrade. Gaining planning permission for roof terraces in urban areas can be difficult because of issues of privacy and overlooking.

In this case, the inventive solution is to create a custom-designed balustrade of slim vertical timber members that preserves privacy while still conveying a sense of light and views. The simple but effective concept of a vertical timber screen as a veiling element is employed in other projects, including the practice’s own office.

Acting like an outdoor room and lined with timber, the new roof terrace extends the existing dwelling, providing a flexible and delightful external space for relaxing and entertaining. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract Value Private

Location North West London

Client Private

Date 2009

Area 158m²

Design Team Paul McAneary Architects

Design Service

Main Contractor Sheppard Construction

Sub Contractor


Pop house

Pop house

This commission arose through Paul McAneary Architects’ experience of working in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, an exclusive enclave of west London. Paul McAneary Architects’s reputation for high quality residential design spread by word-of-mouth and the practice was invited to remodel a house belonging to one of the UK’s leading pop stars.

The large Regency dwelling had a garden and mews, which had been converted into a recording studio. The focus of the remodelling is an expanded roof zone to accommodate an enlarged master bedroom with en suite bathroom. The new roof is a version of a standard mansard, inventively customised and reconceptualised by Paul McAneary Architects for this particular context.

Within its folded form, like a delicate piece of origami, carefully positioned skylights bring natural light into the spaces below. Mindful of planning constraints, the project had to be executed with great tact and sensitivity in negotiation with local planners, a challenged that drew on the practice’s considerable experience of working with existing historic buildings.

[By Catherine Slessor*]

Paul McAneary Architects Studio Kingly Street

Paul McAneary Architects Studio Kingly Street

Paul McAneary Architects’s first studio was a top floor eyrie three floors up in Kingly Street in London’s Soho. As young architects just starting out, creative thinking was required to devise a functional setting for the practice’s operations that also reflected its wider architectural ethos.

Though modest in scale, it embodies the practice’s essential design principles in creating a large, luminous, white-walled space with a simple, looping plan, using a carefully judged palette of materials.

The expediency of a tight budget prompted the inventive appropriation of off-the-peg elements, such as the storage units, which were adapted from Ikea. Staff were arranged around one large desk, promoting interaction. Slim light fittings were fixed to the existing timber roof trusses and a specially customised lightbox, now redundant in the era of digital images, occupied a prominent space.

Paul McAneary Architects’s experience of Kingly Street illustrated the difficulty of finding space in central London at reasonable rates for emerging practices. After three and a half years, the rent was increased, effectively clearing the building of its occupants. It prompted Paul McAneary Architects to consider its options, leading ultimately to its current premises in Flitcroft Street, on the east edge of Soho, not so far from its original home. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract Value

Location Soho, London

Date 2007

Area 46m²

Design Team Paul McAneary Architects

Threshold House

Threshold House

This imaginative conversion of a flat in Maida Vale streamlines a cramped and awkward arrangement of rooms into a series of elegant, rational spaces. The flat occupies the ground and lower ground floor of a Victorian house and had been refurbished without much regard to the quality of the spatial experience or the logistics of circulation.

Entry was by means of a bedroom rather than a hall, so a rolling storage and library unit was specially developed which could either enclose the space for privacy or open it up, giving increased flexibility of use. The clients collect African art, so the remodelled apartment, with its dark walnut floors and white walls, forms a backdrop for an array of vivid paintings and sculptures.

The living area on the ground floor is opened up to the garden with full height sliding glass doors bringing light into the depth of the plan. Within the ground floor, ceiling bulkheads subtly demarcate function, forming a slightly lowered ceiling over the dining area cultivating a sense of intimacy.

The staircase linking the two floors is ingeniously adapted as a wine store. Enclosed by glass panels it employs a network of horizontal tensile wires to support the wine bottles, transforming quotidian objects into a sculptural array. Specially developed construction details respond to the technical challenges involved with a pleasing economy and refinement.

An arched space on the ground floor unifies and rationalises circulation. The geometry of the perfect 90 degree arch confers the modest interior with an almost ceremonial aspect. Another deft sleight of hand is a hidden dressing room secreted within the storage wall of the master bedroom.

Such discreet yet thoughtful moves neatly optimise space and circulation, transforming a hitherto disconnected and experientially dreary London residence into a luminous modern enclave for contemporary living. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract Value £180k
Location Maida Vale, London
Client Private
Date 2017
Area 172.68m²
Design Team Paul McAneary Architects
Design Service From design concept to detailed design through to end of construction, interior design, lighting design, furniture design
Main Contractor Sterling Build

Loophouse 2

Loophouse 2

Applying the principles of a looping plan, this project optimises open plan living to transform a cellular Victorian terraced house into a fluid armature of space and light. The house lies within a conservation area in the leafy London milieu of Fulham and was one of the first projects in the area to gain planning permission for a basement conversion.

An ingeniously engineered structural frosted glass floor brings light into the basement, forming a visually intriguing ‘door mat’. Those in the basement can also get a dramatic sense of people coming and going.

The traditional Victorian ‘front to back’ plan is opened up to create a new living space characterised by clean lines and minimal intervention. A beautifully crafted bespoke storage wall runs the length of the house, providing a hidden repository for the necessities (and frivolities) of daily life. Details such as shutters that open up to reveal a fireplace and an elegantly-lit alcove bar area enhance the domestic dynamic.

The living space flows through into a kitchen with a central island unit as a focal point for socialising and entertaining. Generous glazed sliding doors overlook the garden, bringing light into the deep plan. When open, inside and outside become a seamless realm, emphasised by the extension of grey Terra Mosa tiles into the garden, creating a fantastic space for parties and family life. A separate ‘back of house’ kitchen adds functional capability for entertaining.

The master bedroom mirrors the concept of the boutique hotel, with crisp, simple lines cultivating a luxurious, contemporary feel. A separate floor was given over to the live-in au pair to ensure a sense of privacy. A wine cellar and home offices with bespoke furniture were also incorporated. Combining logic and luxury, the project reconceptualises the historic Victorian home, a familiar staple of London’s housing market, for the changing needs of a modern family. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract value £ 350k
Location Hammersmith & Fulham, London
Private Client
Date 2009
Surface 245m2
Design team Paul McAneary Architects
Design service From design concept to detailed design, interior design, lighting design, glazing design, furniture design, inspection, building control, 3D visualization
Main contractor Roxburgh Construction
Subcontractor/Supplier Simon Heslop
Press 2013 Laura Snaod, “Clear vision”, Grand Designs, November

Chiswick House

Chiswick House

Exploring how a 1950s dwelling can be tactfully remodelled, this revitalisation of a house in Chiswick touches on themes of light and materiality that evoke the spirit of the original architecture. Originally designed in the late 50s, the house was of sufficient interest to feature in The Architectural Review at the time, as part of the magazine’s regular survey of notable new British buildings. The aim of the remodelling was to tactfully tease apart the original cellular layout, introduce more light and rationalise space.

The key move is the addition of a new garden room attached to the kitchen. A long glazed slot articulates the distinction between old and new, bringing light into the plan. This is amplified by the garden room’s full height glazed sliding doors. A patio and reflecting pool finesse the transition between inside and out.

Combined with a new palette of white walls and floors, the lightweight addition forms a crisp foil to the existing brick architecture. Lined with exquisitely crafted timber, the living room retains a sense of its time, but reconceptualised for the current era. A new staircase is finished with an ingenious illuminated balustrade sunk in the wall, carving out a jagged line of light through the house.

Showing how to address the challenges of revitalising existing buildings through optimising and transforming space, this is one of PMA’s earliest projects. Though modest, it set the tone for the practice’s subsequent formal and material inquiry, enacted through an increasingly assured architectural repertoire. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract Value Private

Location Chiswick, London

Client Private Family

Date 2007

Area 525m²

Design Team Paul McAneary Architects

Design Service Paul McAneary, Robert Harwood

Main Contractor Chappell Build Ltd

Supplier Sky-frame

Press 2011 Marcelo Seferin, ‘Architect Day: Paul

McAnea! Architects’, Abuzeedo, 13 September 2011

Glass House

Glass House

Set among the historic warehouses and granaries of London’s Shad Thames, this project remodels an unusually large loft space in a converted 19th century mill house. The client requested a space for entertaining and displaying pieces of art, but also wanted to engender a sense of privacy and intimacy within the cavernous former industrial space.

The sophisticated scheme explores the use of glass in its many forms to adapt and enhance the existing interior. In particular, it features the latest electrochromic ‘smart’ glass technology that enables glass to metamorphose from opacity to transparency by the flick of a switch.

Pushing the boundaries of the material, Paul McAneary Architects employed the largest possible panels of smart glass to experiment with visual connections between the different spaces around a central atrium. When the glass is clear, boundaries dissolve creating a dramatic sense of spatial fluidity with through views from living room to kitchen and dining room to living room. Yet if a more intimate setting is required, the glass can be switched off to achieve an opaque finish.

The original ensuite bathroom was open to the master bedroom, an arrangement that has been retained, but with the inclusion of a smart glass enclosure for privacy. A similar principle applies to the large television screen, disguised by Mirona glass which acts as a mirror when it is not backlit. A crisp, clean-edged frame to match the monolithic black floor encloses the glass with the flat screen behind it.

When the television is turned off, the mirror accentuates the feeling of space, a deft sleight of hand that transforms the living room. In the bedroom a bronze Mirona glass mirror conceals the television, adding warmth to the interior. A large screen of acid-etched glass brings copious natural light into the bedroom. The smooth finish of the acid etching gives the glass a luxurious visual and sensual quality. This is augmented by two 3m high slots infilled with glass bricks, which generate compelling patterns of light, shadows and reflections.

Distinguished by a sharp monochrome palette of white walls and black floors, the project’s elegantly minimal aesthetic forms the perfect backdrop to the client’s collection of contemporary art, featuring pieces by Damian Hirst and Harland Miller. Yet it also alludes to history – the loft’s main entrance is framed by a lambrequin, giving a traditional element a sharp, modern twist. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract Value £1.8M
Location Southwark, London
Client Private
Date 2010
Area 245m²
Design Team Paul McAneary Architects
Design Service From design concept to detailed design through to end of construction, interior design, lighting design, glazing design, survey,building control
Main Contractor Sterling Build
Sub Contractor AV Nick Acheson
Supplier Vitra, Vola, Viabizzuno
Press 2013 Katie Hughes, ‘The Great Escape’, Renovate, March 2013 2012 Candace Jackson, ’A Bachelor Reboots, A London executive replaces a traditional home with a modern white loft’, Wall Street Journal, 1 June 2012