Watson's St Chapel, London

Designed by: Nikjoo
For client: Private Floor area: 170.00 M² Year of completion: 2018
Submitted for: House of the Year

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The concrete floor binds the existing building and interventions together.

About the Project

Watson's St Chapel is a studio, gallery, and home in south London, for an artist and her family.

Formerly a Victorian chapel the building has been given new life and purpose after having fallen into disrepair following years of disuse. Nikjoo was tasked with breathing life back into the historic structure, transforming it into an adaptable, contemporary living and work space, that allows for flexibility of use and function for the creative client.

Stripped back to it original form, Nikjoo sought to reveal features and details that had been covered through years of piecemeal extensions and additions. Restored using a palette of rich yet simple materials, the new interventions interweave with the existing fabric of the building.

The plan takes inspiration from the original chapel layout. The nave contains the living and studio space, its height and scale left intentionally open to allow for adaption and personalisation throughout the lifetime of the building. The rear of the chapel has been entirely rebuilt in what was the vestry, to provide three new bedrooms and other facilities.

The key intervention is the insertion of a cantilevered mezzanine structure within the main space; imagined as a contemporary pulpit, it serves as the nucleus of the building. Built entirely of wood, it contains the kitchen and plant services at ground level, and provides a workspace with access to a new roof terrace above, creating a space to fosters the owner's life and work.

What’s unique about it

Watson’s St Chapel has been designed to restore, preserve and bring life back into a neglected historic building. Designed for maximum flexibility, the project fulfils the clients brief of creating an open, versatile space for both working and family life. In addition, the design allows the space to be adapted and repurposed throughout the lifespan of the owner and future occupiers.

This flexibility has been achieved through the main intervention. The cantilevered mezzanine conceals all mechanical and electrical plant, creating a central nucleus that frees up the external walls to be re-used and re-purposed as desired.

A fabric-first approach was taken for restoration to ensure the sustainability and longevity of the building. Existing features has have been retained and celebrated. The internal design responds to this by referencing the history and technology of the era, particularly the timber roof trusses, building upon it with contemporary timber materials and structural techniques.

The new angled window was instated to capture the morning sunlight, creating a bright space throughout the day for not only dramatic form but also maximum natural lighting, critical for the client’s work.

It was important for Nikjoo that the client, a wood carver and gilder, incorporated her artwork into the building to be a part of its ongoing story. The most notable impression is a gilded glass panel that was inserted as the kitchen splash back, a colourful stamp of the client.

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The external facades have been restored and rejuvenated, continuing the building's life and story.

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Restored using a palette of rich yet simple materials, the new interventions interweave with the existing fabric of the building.

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Taking full advantage of the height and scale of the structure, the main space has been allows for adaptation and personalisation throughout the lifetime of the building.

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Soft colours and tones create a relaxing bathroom space.

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A large arched window within the rear facade opens out from the mezzanine to the new outdoor terrace, capturing sunlight throughout the day to create an ever-changing atmosphere and experience within the main space.

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Stairs leading up to the mezzanine workspace continue the material and textural quality.

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It was important to Nikjoo that the client's artwork was integrated into the design. The gilded glass splashback was created by the client, adding personalisation to the space.

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The material palette adds a textural richness to the space which balance the interventions against the simplicity of the original building.

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The new cantilevered mezzanine structure creates a nucleus for the building. The structure can be seen as a form of pulpit, a place to foster the owner’s life and work.

Location of project:


Tully Construction

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