Shad Thames Water Tower

FORMstudio, London, 2018


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Mike Neale, FORMstudio     Download Original

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A project to create more living space in a south London property.

Located above a 4th floor warehouse loft apartment, the previously windowless uninsulated space inside this 19th century water tower had been accessed via a tiny headroom-restricted spiral stair; with onward access to the roof provided by a similarly compromised and massively over-scaled steel staircase which had taken up virtually the entire double-height volume.

The objective of this project was therefore to colonise the under-utilised volume of the tower to create additional living space for the apartment below as part of a rationalised, comfortable and light-drenched circulation route to a roof-top terrace in the redundant water tank above.

Two tightly-configured flights of stairs, stacked one above the other in a continuous top-to-bottom slot, now link two intermediate mezzanine floors, with a third stair rising from the upper mezzanine to the roof. The first mezzanine provides a work space and the second a sitting eyrie with long-reaching city views, adding around 16m2 of usable floor space within the existing volume.

The result is a natural and instinctive processional route up through the tower to the roof terrace. Frameless skylights and glass landings draw natural light down through the slot, and the eye upwards from the previously rather dark accommodation below. Above the datum of the retained exposed brick of the existing apartment, the dramatic full-height back wall to the stair slot has been clad vertically in reclaimed Carpathian oak planks, creating a textural but non-literal link with the original finishes, providing a visually interesting reflecting surface for the daylight from above.

Other newly insulated walls and soffits are painted white, with floors and joinery in pale Douglas Fir, maximising light reflection and creating a clear yet complementary distinction between old and new. The simply but robustly detailed grey-finish steel stair and stainless-steel mesh balustrades nod to the industrial heritage of the building.


  • Begun: Dec 2017
  • Completed: Apr 2018
  • Floor area: 94m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Jul 2017
  • Procurement: JCT Intermediate Form of Contract
  • CO2 Emissions: 6.54kg/m2/year
  • Address: London, United Kingdom