Blindspotting

Collaboration with FAR Frohn & Rojas

A residential extension to an existing 19th century workshop building on Amwell Street, Islington, currently used by Joe Corré, the founder of Agent Provocateur, as the studio for his fashion brand, ‘Child of the Jago’.

‘Right to light’ is a form of easement in English law that gives long-standing owners of buildings with windows legal rights. This sits outside conventional planning restrictions. Under this easement, owners are entitled to forbid any construction or other obstruction on adjacent land that would block the light, and so deprive them of adequate illumination. This is traditionally known as the doctrine of ‘ancient lights’. The rights to ancient lights are usually acquired under the Prescription Act of 1832. In other words, in London, through the ‘Ancient Rights to Light’ law, daylight has been turned into a tradable commodity.

The Amwell Street rooftop extension was likely to affect over 30 immediate neighbours under this law. In response, we turned the neighbours’ quantifiable ‘ancient rights to light’ into a new design parameter. But further to this legal ‘invisibility’ required, Historic England demanded that any new building proposed for this conservation area had to be both ‘beautiful’, and completely invisible from the public realm.

Blind-Spotting became the resulting parametric design strategy that enabled us to mould these ancient rights to light and sight lines into a physical form. While invisible to the surroundings, the design provides an abundance of natural light and exterior views, as well as a roof garden and enclosed courtyard. Through following ancient building codes, a new densification strategy for London emerges.

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