Lockkeeper's Cottage

Sanchez Benton architects , London, 2019


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A house built around a column. Structural stabilisation, refurbishment and thermal upgrading of existing lockkeeper’s cottage in central London

The project for the refurbishment of a Lockkeeper’s cottage on the Regents Canal seeks to turn a series of major structural interventions, necessary to safeguard the structural integrity of the existing building, into a holistic architectural proposal.

The existing foundations of the cottage had been undermined by the planting of a row of willow trees alongside the canal in the 1970’s, risking the collapse of the structure. We worked closely with the structural engineers’ to design a structural solution around a single stepping concrete column and a series of beams to hold back the existing leaning façade; threading the rest of the house around this structure.

The stepping of the column responds to structural forces by providing stiffness to its connection to the ground and forms a balustrade to the stair and a support to a writing desk at first floor level. In response to a constraint site in a Conservation area, and the impossibility of extending the building, our proposal relocates most of the storage of the house into the thickness of the front façade.

This allows a simple floor plan providing long views across the house and the perception of a larger space. All facades were heavily insulated externally and masked in lime pointed reclaimed London stock in response to the Conservation Officer’s requirements. This new façade is crowned with a lead frieze that conceals the main gutter, terminating in a contemporary gargoyle at one end and a sculptural rainwater pipe at the other.

The proximity to the canal meant that all the structural underpinning had to be carried out from the inside, offering the opportunity to thermally upgrade the ground floor slab of the building. The flushness of the windows to the external façade reinforces the thinness of the new brick mask, and allows the house to fully open up in good weather with every window and door completely folding back onto the façade, turning the ground floor of the house into a loggia overlooking the Regents Canal.

Photography by Oskar Proctor, Max Creasy


  • Begun: Mar 2018
  • Completed: Jan 2019
  • Floor area: 71m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £227,500
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Jan 2018
  • Procurement: JCT Intermediate ICD16
  • Address: London, United Kingdom

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