Rock Face

Patalab Architecture, London, 2021



All photographs Julian Abrams     Download Original

  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_010_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_020_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_040_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_050_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_080_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_090_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_100_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_110_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_130_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_140_Highbury_Fields_Apartment    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_F3_17HT_1    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_F3_17HT_2    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_F3_17HT_3    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_F3_17HT_4    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_F3_17HT_5    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_F3_17HT_6    
  • KXVOG51RMZMZ3HH_F3_17HT_7    

Inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Rock Face’, this renovation uncovers three potential conditions that this ground floor apartment previously did not exploit

1 Connecting rear garden to living area at the front of the house

2 Celebrating the flat’s Georgian heritage

3 Enjoying a verdant dual aspect, with views over Highbury Fields to the front and garden to rear.

Unlocking these benefits was complex as restrictions such as the building’s Grade-II listing, structure and services meant that a substantial rearrangement was not possible. The split level (Georgian rooms at a higher level to the 20th-century extension) added to this complexity as the staircase between could not be moved.

Hepworth’s carvings express the innate conditions of a slab of limestone, enhancing what already exists in the raw material and simultaneously transforming it. Rock Face unearthed the potentials described above in three ways:

1. Reinterpreting the relationship between meandering seam and rectangular faces, a level datum now transcends the flat. Whether articulated in brass inlay, shelving detail, kitchen counter or change in paint colours, the datum creates a visual connection from front to back of the flat, remaining level while ffl and fcl change. Existing undulation is celebrated.

2. Inspired by how carvings emphasise existing conditions of the stone, the lobby which previously ate into the Georgian room’s original proportions is shrunk laterally and vertically to reveal the original picture rail and cornice making all four corners of the living area visible. This new lobby-box also conceals a fridge-freezer, enabling the kitchen to appear more freestanding.

3. Two angled openings create views through the sculpture and articulate the limestone/sculpture’s depth. The staircase is now a dark space to look through to the lighter space beyond. Two openings in the living area work with bedroom doors to create oblique views through the flat.

Annual CO2 data was not provided


  • Begun: May 2021
  • Completed: Sep 2021
  • Floor area: 62m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £134,000
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Jan 2021
  • Procurement: Intermediate building contract
  • Address: Highbury, London, N5, United Kingdom

Professional Team


AJBL Sponsor

Armstrong World Industries

A global leader in providing customised, multi material ceiling and wall solutions

Find out more