I have a confession: I’m a city girl who loathes steps. I’ve always had one-story apartments wherever I’ve lived (with one slight exception): in Chicago, Florida, China, Peru. But that’s a personal issue. It contradicts my love of urban density and my understanding that larger, more luxurious abodes that fit on a simple one-story plan in a major metropolitan area. Therefore while I would dream of living in a residence with so many stories, I can certainly appreciate the design of London-based Belsize Architects Sheldon House.
There are three primary reasons to like it: the visual play of dimensions that create a sense of mystery, the cool tones and bridging of in/exterior realms done via not just one but two methods, and the designer’s use of context.
The Sheldon house, in London, is situated on a long, narrow plot that the designer was skillfully able to build a U-shaped form into. Meanwhile the designers insisted upon sustaining a sense of neighborly appreciation. They respected the house’s existing forms for context yet subtly introduced new architectural themes, yielding a classic Modernist feel that blends in rather than commands attention. Furthermore, the new design was implemented without expanding the volume of the house’s modest predecessor.
A triple-height atrium softly descends like DuChamp’s Nude Descending the Staircase. It brings daylight into the house through a variety of window shapes and sizes, and it extends views from each floor to a nearby golf course and gardens. The circulation spaces are arranged around the edge of the atrium. The main gathering and eating areas are located like a warm embrace within the lower levels.
The atrium and inherently stepped arrangement articulates the overall form of the house. They work together to create a succession of tiered levels, according to the architects. Walk down the steps to the basement pool area, the composition of which offers safety like a harbor. Its vertical and horizontal emphases, its deep and reflective surfaces, and its multiple ability to blur the indoors and out and serve as a circulation method may make this the focal point of the house. The pool partially extends between a landscaped rear garden and a sunken courtyard.
Playful use of vertical and horizontal glass planes encourages visitors to pause upon introduction to the house. There I would run amongst staircases letting the mysteries of the home reveal themselves.