The Dress Box

Bernard Stilwell Architects, London, 2012

 

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  • The Dress Box - a discrete modern insertion onto an existing roof terrace.    
  • When viewed from outside, the neatly defined top edge created by the glass-to-glass junction gives seamless reflections of the sky.    
  • The Dress Box - a discrete modern insertion onto an existing roof terrace.    
  • Dresses are carried on glowing glass fins, sliding across the ceiling.    
  • The architecture changes character depending on weather, and time of day.    
  • In bright sunlight, the minimal glass form reflects light like a mirror, seemingly disappearing, leaving only the surrounding elements – visions of the sky, brickwork, and trees.    
  • At night the interior becomes visible through the glass, with the Jesmonite ceiling illuminated by a dynamic pattern of luminous lightsheet fins.    
  • The effect is that of a glowing jewel – with light filtered through a translucent curtain.    
  • The Dress Box - a discrete modern insertion onto an existing roof terrace.    
  • Cruciform columns are clad in mirror-finished stainless steel, used alongside the reflective properties of the glass, as part of a surface strategy for making the architecture appear ethereal, against the stately brickwork.    
  • Dresses are carried on glowing glass fins, sliding across the ceiling.    
  • The bespoke clothes rail arrangement was based on a sliding glass door mechanism. The glass ‘door’ in effect was cut short, to create a suspended glass ‘fin’ onto which a polished stainless steel pole was attached below it.    
  • The Dress Box    
  • The perimeter detailing creates uninterrupted floor-to-ceiling views of the existing brickwork context.    
  • Mirror-finished stainless steel is used alongside the reflective properties of the glass, as part of a surface strategy for making the architecture appear ethereal, against the stately brickwork.    
  • Inside, the ceiling appears to float above the solid oak floor, held aloft by four cruciform columns.    
  • The bespoke clothes rail arrangement was based on a sliding glass door mechanism. The glass ‘door’ in effect was cut short, to create a suspended glass ‘fin’ onto which a polished stainless steel pole was attached below it.    
  • In bright sunlight, the minimal glass form reflects light like a mirror, seemingly disappearing, leaving only the surrounding elements – visions of the sky, brickwork, and trees.    
  • In bright sunlight, the minimal glass form reflects light like a mirror, seemingly disappearing, leaving only the surrounding elements – visions of the sky, brickwork, and trees.    
  • The Dress Box is accessed through a new opening and link from the existing building.    
  • As a result of carefully considered design, the pre-existing spaces, the adjacent rooms and staircase have been brightened up and made more usable.    
  • Mirror-finished stainless steel is used alongside the reflective properties of the glass, as part of a surface strategy for making the architecture appear ethereal, against the stately brickwork.    
  • When viewed from outside, the neatly defined top edge created by the glass-to-glass junction gives seamless reflections of the sky.    
  • The Dress Box    
  • The Dress Box    
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  • Exploded Axonometric Projection    
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High-quality, custom-fitted; a discrete contemporary insertion onto the rooftop of an existing country house, to exhibit an extensive collection of haute couture

Costume collections are fragile and vulnerable. The artefacts are beautifully crafted and precious, yet far from easy objects to conserve. The private Client’s collection of haute couture dresses required special storage conditions: safe yet easily accessible, with room for expansion.

The new insertion proposed by Bernard Stilwell Architects has been put in a forgotten first floor lightwell within the client’s large house. Prized views from bedrooms and staircase, of the sky and the landscaped garden beyond, glimpsed through a single opening from the inner terrace to the outside, have been skilfully preserved – possibly enhanced. A Brief which could have been answered with a functional storage box, has been taken as an opportunity imaginatively to transform an ignored and not much loved damp court into a sparkling space, both when seen from inside and from outside.

The conservation of the artefacts demanded a sealed environment, with tightly controlled temperature and humidity. Without much space for thick wall construction, on a first floor timber joisted flat roof, the external surface had to be carefully researched. Super-insulating glass was chosen for a variety of reasons: the thin external envelope enables maximum use of space on the roof terrace – space for dresses inside, and enough room to walk around the box on the outside, keeping distance from the surrounding brick walls.

Until recently, the ‘air conditioned glass box’ concept could be seen as an ecologically thoughtless aspect of Miesian modernism. However recent advances in glass technology have made it environmentally acceptable. Super insulating triple-glazed panels, with UV filters to reduce solar gain, mean the amount of energy consumed in heating and cooling is minimised. The super-insulated glazing maintains the stored objects in an ideal environment. Reflections and transparency, both inside and outside, are increased by the special films and coatings on the glass surfaces as well as the judicious placing of lights and polished stainless steel surfaces. The result is a glittering, sparkling addition to a previously gloomy space.

Sustainability is about more than simply the material properties and qualities of a new building. As a result of carefully considered design, the pre-existing spaces, the adjacent rooms and staircase have been brightened up, enhanced, and made more usable.

Data

  • Begun: Jan 2012
  • Completed: Jul 2012
  • Floor area: 40m2
  • Sector: House
  • Total cost: £235,000
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Oct 2011
  • Procurement: JCT Intermediate Building Contract with contractor's design 2005, Revision 2, 2009,
  • Address: London, United Kingdom

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