studio octopi

delfina foundation . london

studio octopi . Shahira Fahmy Architects . photos: © Julien Lanoo . + architects journal

Studio Octopi won the Delfina Foundation project through an invited competition organised by Nous Collaborative.

Originally located at 29 Catherine Place in an Edwardian townhouse in Victoria, the Foundation has expanded into the adjacent building, giving it a combined area total of 4,564 square feet.
The £1.4m redevelopment has increased the number of residents at one time from four to eight, as well as creating 1,650 square feet of additional exhibition and event space.

Adhering to one of the core concepts of the Foundation’s history as a provider of ‘homes’ for artists, we have retained the domesticity of the two houses, exploring the significance of the hearth in a home. Across cultures and throughout history, the hearth has been an integral part of a household, becoming synonymous with notions of domesticity, and placemaking. Fireplaces are kept in their entirety on the lower floors, and the recesses and hearth stones are retained in the artists’ private spaces.
The designs also set out to maintain the juxtaposition of public and private spaces. The introduction of glazed panels in the floors and walls allow for their integration. Diagonal views across the buildings and through the floors expose the Foundation’s ecosystem at work, as well as opening up the two buildings and bringing in more light throughout the space. With flexible artist workspaces throughout, the five-storey property boasts an expansive gallery / workshop space on the lower ground floor; reception, dining area and kitchen on the ground level; offices and library on the first, whilst the residents’ quarters occupy the two top floors.

Adopting the role of architect cum archaeologists, we have created an environment which is unassuming, layered and contextual, while peeling back the layers of ornamentation and finish to expose the period craftsmanship of the buildings. New insertions are made with a light and considered touch, while detailing is discrete and at times whimsical. Brickwork to the reveals of the new openings is left exposed and overhead concrete lintels retained in their natural state. By leaving materials in their raw state, a reminder of the building’s beginnings is introduced. A sense of permanence is imbued in the two townhouses, linking the present with the past and consequently looking ahead into the building’s exciting future.

The project was developed at competition stage in collaboration with Cairo based Shahira Fahmy Architects. Whilst the original concept was a collaboration, Studio Octopi has led the design development and overseen the construction.

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