Veiled Office

Jo Townshend Architects, London, 2022



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This project seeks to maximise the potential of a complex, ad-hoc, urban heritage site. The brief was to provide a small independent office space on the site of a small and underused store to the rear of a shop.

Site constraints highly influenced the design both from a structural and logistical point of view. Structurally, a light touch approach was developed by HF-K engineers to avoid the need for new footings, reducing unnecessary use of concrete, and allowing the structure to be built up on existing walls. New structural elements that create the mezzanine floor, double height space and stair well are celebrated. Exposed, red painted, PFC beams crisscross the space. Timber structural posts to the rear wall supporting the roof eaves and box gutter are similarly expressed allowing for storage between – essential on such a small site. The roof geometry was informed by the non-orthogonal footprint of the site and led to a sloping ridge beam adding a subtle dynamism to both the interior and to the urban roofscape externally. Surrounded on all sides by neighbouring buildings, the site can only be lit naturally from above. The double height space at one end allows light down into the ground floor. Privacy and overheating concerns had to be balanced with this. The roof was therefore only partially glazed. Logistically, difficult access to the site meant that with all materials and components were delivered and carried by hand through a small front door adjacent to the retail unit. The roof was therefore designed as a series of portable glazed and timber components. The result is secret and hidden, the roof the only element visible from the sky or the rear windows of the urban block that surrounds it.


  • Begun: Dec 2021
  • Completed: Mar 2022
  • Floor area: 29m2
  • Sector: Office
  • Total cost: £169,000
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Feb 2021
  • Procurement: JCT Minor Works
  • Address: Blackheath, London, SE3 0TA, United Kingdom

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