Charles Barclay was asked by one of his London clients to design a new weekend house on the site of an old pig farm near Minsmere Bird Sanctuary in Suffolk. The site is in effect a very large field, bound on two sides by woodland and with an avenue of oak trees on the third side. The house was to have a strong sense of connection with the surrounding landscape while also ‘holding its own’ with the large field, known by the client as the Prairie. Charles Barclay’s modern ‘Prairie House’ is single storey, made up of two conjoined L-shapes, one of which serves as a guest wing. The house has a strong sculptural presence on the site; its sloping roofs and tall glazed screens give fine views of the landscape and the Suffolk sky. The south-facing glazing allows positive solar gain in winter, while roof overhangs prevent over heating in summer. A raised terrace sited between the wings provides a sheltered outside ‘room’ and additional decks give views over the large farm pond nearby. A separate outbuilding featuring a bat attic provides a habitat for a colony of long-eared brown bats that formerly occupied the old farm cottage. The low-energy house is built using SIPS (structural insulated panel system) and clad in timber, with polished concrete floors and Crittal steel-framed windows. It won a RIBA Eastern Region award 2013.
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The Edwardians reacted to the previous generation of house design by creating split levels. Lots of them. This can cause headaches for the architect when remodelling Edwardian houses. However the split levels in this family home on Streatham Hill allowed Charles Barclay to create an atmospheric, cave-like space looking on to the garden, with a glass ceiling above the dining table, a huge sliding screen connecting with the kitchen, and a cantilevered roof over the informal sitting area overlooking the garden: glazed doors slide away from the corner giving the sensation of the space actually being outdoors. A steel pergola follows the stepped profile at the rear of the house and the sleek modern kitchen is dominated by the one archaic design element the client insisted upon: her Aga. The all-important staircase connecting the many levels was re-modelled to be both simple and dramatic, with a black wall nut handrail threading its way from the entrance hall to the top floor.
This distinguished end-of-terrace Georgian house, built for the captain of a merchant ship, has a walled garden to the rear and side. Charles Barclay Architects gained Listed Building Consent to take down a rickerty Victorian kitchen extension and rebuild it in a modern idiom. The new Kitchen/Dining area is treated as a garden pavilion, with bifold doors to the east, a retracting glass door to the south and an all-glass bay to the west. An Acero stone floor runs from an external terrace through the dining area, folds up to form a window seat in the glass bay, heated in winter. The proposal was conceived in collaboration with a garden design by landscape architects Del Buono Gazerwitz.
The astronomical observatory, won in competition in 2005, was completed for the Kielder Partnership in May 2008 and has been acclaimed by architectural critics, the astronomical community and the public. The first observatory to use a ‘land pier’ form and all-timber construction, it houses two permanent telescopes and is designed to suit amateurs and professional astronomers alike. During the day, the observatory serves as a belvedere overlooking Kielder Forest. The observatory is an exemplar off-grid building, entirely self-powered by means of a wind turbine and photo-voltaic panels and features as the ‘mothership’ for the renowned Kielder star camps. The observatory has received 2009 awards from the RIBA and the Civic Trust, a Hadrian Award from Northern Architecture and featured in the inaugural World Architecture Festival. For information on opening times see www.kielderobservatory.org(Download PDF)
Living Architecture, the organisation set up by Alain de Botton to build interesting modern homes for holiday rentals, held a competition for a small, self-contained, temporary hotel room located on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s Southbank. Charles Barclay’s proposed a rotating pod, part living room and part bedroom/bathroom, finished in gold anodised aluminium and mounted on a conical dias with a decked area. Their Room for London has a large viewing window to the front and can be manually rotated by the occupants to face different views from this rooftop vantage point . The pod rotates around a static table at its centre; this table has an interactive street map of central London so that the occupants can orientate themselves with the view and using touch-screen technology engage with the sites and sounds at various locations in Central London in real time. It is both an exotic hotel room and a modern version of the traditional camera obscura. The Rotating Room was short listed by Living Architecture.(Download PDF)
What should a local community do with an overgrown bomb site that has lain unused since 1942? Charles Barclay liaised with the residents at Bonham Gardens off Brixton Hill to see what the possibilities could be and came up with a community garden and clubhouse for one half of the site, and a much-needed community playground for the other half . The proposal was entered in the RIBA Forgotten Spaces competition.
CBA teamed up with Atela Architects of Paris and were shortlisted to submit a scheme for affordable housing in Melun Senart, a new town near Paris. The competition was organised jointly by CABE and DAPA for innovative social housing in these new suburbs. We look at this territory as a landscape that is becoming built upon, not as an urban entity with new quarters being added. Our proposal is a field of dwellings, clustered together relying on internal patios for private external space, loosely based on the North African village archetype. The patio in turn opens onto courtyards used by residents to socialise and play, a car free zone that fosters communality. Pavilion-like boxes above provide an outlook to the landscape beyond the tight-knit ‘village’.
Adding basements in London is all the rage; the challenge is creating a new basement that is light-filled, easy to access and genuinely useful. This Victorian terraced house is raised half a storey above the street, allowing Charles Barclay to extend the front bay window down at the front, providing light and air to a new guest bedroom. At the rear, the ground floor extension steps in plan to allow a wide external staircase to give direct access from the playroom to the garden, while the dining area above has its own terrace. The interior has a glass staircase and landing allowing light to filter down from a rooflight overhead and giving a real sense of connection between the playroom and the kitchen and dining room above. The extensions at basement, ground and roof level almost doubled the floor area of the house and made it an exceptionally light and spacious family house.
Charles Barclay won an invited competition for the conversion of the former public toilets located under the newly landscaped Brixton Square, South London. The square is the focal point of the public buildings in south Brixton, with the Ritzy cinema, Brixton library and new Black Cultural Archives behind and Lambeth Town Hall opposite and is one of the few public open spaces in the densely populated Brixton area. The large underground space of the former toilets is remodelled as a community art gallery with two pavilions on the surface, one serving as the gallery entrance and a coffee shop, the other as a control booth for musical events held in the square. A slender roof finished in polished aluminium spans between the two pavilions, providing a sheltered outside area. Due to budget cuts, the project has yet to be realised.
Situated at the north-west corner of the original Victorian building, the Nursery Extension is the second phase of the remodelling of Grafton Primary, providing an extra 50 sqm of internal floor space and easy access to the external play area. With services and facilities organized along a side strip, the Nursery offers a flexible open space with integrated furniture. It is connected to the outside by unusually tall doors and a rooflight to distribute uniform daylight throughout. A PlayBox, with coloured slotted windows, provides a cozy area for the pupils and for occasional performances. Timber boards, natural in appearance, define the building envelope and establish a new dialogue with CBA’s Eco-Funnel completed in 2007, on the other side of the playground.
The client required a two-storey living room extension to his Oxfordshire home to house his collection of Renaissance sculpture, including a C16th chimney piece in Caen stone. A gallery includes a new bedroom and bathroom, with a bridge linking to the first floor of the farmhouse. Traditional detailing was a planning requirement for the exterior, but a pin-wheel plan with gables on each elevation allows for a dramatic, sculpted, modern interior to set off the collection. Reclaimed slate slabs provide the ground floor finish while reclaimed jarra wood is used on the gallery. The extension forms a link between the old farm house and the walled rose garden and guest lodge to the east.
Sometimes the errors of past designers provide lucky breaks. This Georgian house in Blackheath is listed, but an oversized 1960s side extension, a stripped-out interior and a separate bungalow in the garden provided an opportunity for Charles Barclay to design a truly unique home for his client, a lover of modern art and design. The old house was given a simple interior with bleached pine floors while the side extension was turned in to the new entrance hall and kitchen, the latter in a sculpted, double-height space. A new all-glass extension provides a dining space that is contiguous with the kitchen and a sense of actually being outside in the garden. A modern L-shaped garden room/ guest lodge replaces the old bungalow, dividing the main, walled garden from a small wild garden to the rear, and a terrace of polished concrete with its carp-filled moat provides a secluded sitting out area. This project was very much about designing an entire terrain, with the close interaction of a sequence of interior and garden spaces. Once again our collaborators were landscape architects Del Buono Gazerwitz.
Two new flats were created within the triangular plan of the top floor of a former bank, the larger of which incorporates a gallery within the roof space, used by the artist client as a studio. The new mezzanine sits upon two existing roof trusses, reinforced with stainless steel cable stays to carry the extra load. Access to the mezzanine is via a semi-spiral stair housed in a drum element that echoes the cupola on the corner of the building. New roof-lights provide additional daylight and views across Clerkenwell to St. Pauls. A large pivoting wall panel can shut off the private bedroom suite from the main space for privacy. The result is a spectacular loft space carved out of what had been a warren of overseas banking offices. The client has since combined the two flats to create one spectacular dwelling with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Charles Barclay Architects designed a new timber house for a Cornish dairy farmer whose retired parents occupy the main farm house. With super-insulation and sustainable materials, the project was conceived as a model farmhouse for the 21st century, complete with computer link to milking parlour. The timber frame was pre-fabricated and erected on site within four weeks; the project cost is a very economic £650/m2. Built on a slope, the house has open-plan living accommodation on the first floor with access bridges from the parking area behind and views south across the Looe valley. The ground floor contains four bedrooms and two bathrooms.
A grand arts and crafts red-brick house in Blackheath had been converted to a home for troubled boys and then back to a house again but with an awkward layout and cramped kitchen. CBA released more internal space by removing the old service back staircase and created a new kitchen/dining room, flanked by a glazed infill extension and a brick family room extension. This created a series of light-filled spaces ‘en filade’ giving on to a generous raised terrace leading to the garden, re-designed in collaboration with Del Buono Gazerwitz landscape architects. Upstairs, a new master bathroom and dressing room use black granite and white marble to striking effect in a sculpted wet area. In the garden, a new secure bike shed and studio provide spaces for the clients to pursue their hobbies.
Charles Barclay Architects designed the refurbishment and extension of a large late C19th house in Hampstead for two classical musicians, who wanted clean modern spaces while retaining the best of the Victorian features. A new external stair connects the hallway and rear garden and a 10m lap pool was inserted into the lower ground floor with a glass extension and pivoting end wall . A large reception room was created that doubles as a performance space and the glazed pool enclosure allows it to be seen from all levels in the house. The state-of-the-art kitchen above the pool has a structural glass floor and the roof of the pool room, reinforced with a cable truss, set a record for the largest double-glazed unit in the UK.
Charles Barclay Architects obtained planning consent for the conversion of a grade two listed stone barn outside a Cotswolds village into a family home. The strategy was to keep the main space of the barn intact and light-filled while providing accommodation for the clients and their two children. With opposing doorways overlooking open country, CBA designed 4m high glazed screens, fixed to the north and sliding to the south elevation. The barn interior is kept as open as possible, with a mezzanine at one end above the master bedroom. A concrete kitchen counter in the barn “transept” provides cooking with a view; a collapsed gable is replaced with glass to get light in at roof level and provide a viewing gallery overlooking the surrounding landscape.
Conceived as a community hall and serving as temporary accommodation while the main school building was being refurbished, the Eco Funnel also acts as an exemplar for green building techniques. It is built in a corner of the playground from cross-laminated timber panels without steelwork, it has a distinctive folded roof form that cantilevers to the south and east, reflecting the butterfly roofs of the surrounding houses. The roof and rear walls are clad in black EPDM rubber, while the front walls are Douglas fir Tilly board. Cantilevered benches provide sheltered spots to sit under the roof overhangs and a special low window gives panoramic views of the playground for children. PV panels on the south and west roof slopes generate power; rainwater is funneled from the roof in to a glazed pot en route to an underground cistern and is used to water the community garden. The Eco Funnel was short listed for a Wood Award and featured in Open House London.
A new-build community hall for this 1960s inner London primary school near Kings Cross sits poised on a retaining wall at the edge of the playground, overlooking the main approach to the school like a gate house. It serves both the school and the surrounding neighbourhood and has its own entrance to enable public evening events to take place when the school is closed. The construction is from eco-friendly cross-laminated timber panels by Eurban, clad with sheet zinc. A large corner bay window looks down Half Moon Crescent and a glazed roof connects the Look Out back to the existing school building, providing a bright covered play area in between. Water run-off from the roof is stored in a cistern for use on the Nursery Garden. The Look Out provided temporary accommodation for two classes during the construction works to the main school.
This four-storey 1950s terraced house was remodelled for a music-loving client with a built-in audio system on each floor. A glazed roof extension was added and the flat roof turned in to a roof terrace with views of the golden caryatids of Marylebone church. Open plan living spaces were created on the upper ground and first floors, with floor to ceiling pivot doors providing the required fire compartmentation to the central staircase. Floors were finished with red Australian jara wood. With her extensive classical music collection and her home poised between the Royal School of Music and the Wigmore Hall, the client is spoiled for choice, musically speaking.
An experimental school building designed as linked pavilions around three landscaped courtyards in the 1960s, Vittoria School is being altered by Charles Barclay Architects to make it suitable for teaching in to the 21st century. While keeping the design strategy of the original school, the three class blocks are being extended to the east to give class areas to modern requirements, while a new first floor will provide generous IT and art class provision. CBA have worked closely with the school over a number of years to ensure that they work out a design strategy that will be both cost-effective and really improve the day to day feel and running of the school.
The clients needed extra space for their antiques collection and when the house next door came up for sale, they decided to double their living space. Charles Barclay Architects were called in to make a unique home, with a large living room in the roof, bedrooms and bathrooms in the middle and an open plan kitchen/dining area on the ground floor, giving on to the courtyard garden. A WC and utility room were concealed in a lacquered walk-round box, that also houses the cooking counter. C17th fireplaces from Turkey were built in as working hearths, Islamic fountain bases used for wash basins and a reclining niche includes a historic timber ceiling from India. A roll-out awning over the garden provides the finishing touch for this idiosyncratic and highly personal home.
image 3 : Simon Upton (C) World of Interiors
image 4 : Simon Upton (C) World of Interiors
The Georgian ‘tea caddy’ houses on Shooters Hill Road have their best rooms on the raised ground floor with the kitchen downstairs in the basement, deprived of light and views out. The client asked CBA to design a side extension in place of the existing garage to provide a kitchen/dining room on the same level as the main reception rooms, with a sunken garage below, and a basement playroom to the rear. A terrace on the playroom roof leads down to the rear garden and a rear lightwell includes a water feature in Carrara marble inspired by Renaissance fountains in Cordoba. The interior of the kitchen is lit by a 5m long rooflight and glass floor panels bring additional light down to the playroom. From the front, all this extra accommodation appears to be a simple side garage, matching the other garages and coach houses nestled between these historic houses.
With stunning views across the Heath to Hampstead village, the clients asked Charles Barclay Architects to update their penthouse flat to make the most of the outlook. The lower floor was re-organised in to bedrooms, bathrooms and a wide hallway, with the upper floor made open-plan for living, cooking and eating. Oversized sliding doors give almost frameless views and a large new rooflight brings light in to the heart of the flat while a decked balcony features a built-in barbecue. The visual centerpiece of the flat is a sculptural cantilevered stair featuring a bench seat in hand-cast glass. The generous dimensions of the spaces are underlined by the wide-plank Douglas fir flooring from Dinesen.
Charles Barclay is known for designing modernist-minimalist architecture that is bold, atmospheric and creates a strong sense of place: ‘modernism with heart’. He and his team of architects have built a portfolio of elegant top-end residential projects in London and across the UK, underpinned by inventive and progressive designs for schools and other public arenas.
Charles honed his design skills working in New York and for American architects in London and does not feel constrained by the cultural mores of either old or new worlds; he identifies and develops the essence of a project, the strong design idea that makes it special. He works personally with each and every one of his clients to create projects that are both architecturally accomplished and deeply personal to those who have commissioned the work and will occupy it. Architectural excellence, he believes, can only emerge from a genuine design conversation between the client and their architect.
The office collaborate closely with a select group of consultants and specialist builders to ensure the design is delivered, uncompromised, to the last detail, within cost constraints and with the minimum of fuss.
Charles Barclay Ltd trading as Charles Barclay Architects
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When you start a project the cost is more often what comes in the way.Right from the beginning of the project CBA came up with different options which enabled us to clearly decide what was important and what was secondary. CBA took care of everything from end to end, this includes producing a very detailed request for proposal which was sent to builders they advised as well as some that we sourced.They directed the project and provided us with valuable inputs. This includes the master piece in our kitchen: an in-wall mounted case bench We had regular updates on the ongoing work to unable required adjustment. In the end we managed to have a stunning finished product whilst staying within our budget.This in itself is a major achievement.This is just for the technical part of it. On top of that CBA’ s architects are very friendly people to interact with.
_ Estelle Lambert
We had been renting a house designed by CBA for 4 years. When we decided to buy our own house, we approached CBA for designing what would become a heavy refurbishment project. It has been a pleasure and a very fruitful collaboration. We have very much appreciated the way they managed to translate our expectations and their understanding of the quality we were looking for. The follow-up of the activities on site has also been an excellent journey.
_ Arnaud Bekaert
‘Charles Barclay’s vision for our project transformed our house. His attention to detail, rigour and elegant, modernist aesthetic resulted in a living space which is a pleasure to inhabit. In addition, he and his team were easy and fun to work with; he really listens to his clients.’
_ Sue Hall
I commissioned Charles Barclay Architects to build me a new house, which was completed in the year 2012. They had previously totally refurbished a 1960s terraced house for me in Marylebone, London W1 in 2000-2001.
Both of these projects were imaginatively conceived as architecture and wonderfully usable as homes; they have given me enormous pleasure and satisfaction.
The fact that I returned to Charles Barclay Architects to design and oversee the construction of the new house is testimony to their approach as architects and that I find them very easy to work with. I would recommend them without hesitation.
The new build was a challenging site near the coast in Suffolk: a 19 acre field that had been a pig farm on which remained a broken-down 60s/70s house alongside approximately 2 acres of concrete, which had housed pig sties & silos, all leading out into a large area of uncultivated field.
The house was limited in size by costs, but had to be able to accommodate varyingly a couple, or expand to house a large family.
Charles Barclay imaginatively decided to treat this enormous field as a ‘prairie’ and celebrate its expansive nature with a house that truly embraces the site. It is single storey and has three wings extending out in to the field, each framing a different view. The plan form of two conjoined ‘L’ shapes allows me to occupy the house as a private apartment, or open it up for a full family gathering.
The house is an absolute triumph and has won many accolades. More importantly, it was an exciting project to undertake and continues to be a delight to live in.
I have found Charles Barclay Architects a pleasure to work with and adept at interpreting and bringing to fruition my requirements in an imaginative and sympathetic way. We remain good friends!
_ Felicity Guinness
We talked with a number of architects before embarking on our Project but it was only when we met with CBA that we felt we got the creative input and innovative thinking that we were looking for. The curved glass design presented by CBA really appealed to us as it offered something different to most other extension projects we had come across and we felt it struck the right balance between cutting-edge design and functionality.
CBA also added a lot of value at the execution phrase of the project. Whilst we had a hands-on approach, there were certain issues that only came to light due to CBA’s attentive monitoring of the build process, which averted any notable disruptions.
Overall we were very happy with the service from CBA- and needless to say, with the end result- and would recommend them highly for this type of project.
_ Lisa Yau-Alfredson
Throughout the whole process of working with Vittoria Primary School, Charles Barclay Architects were sensitive and responsive to the needs, aspirations and continued smooth running of the school. At the planning stage they worked closely with us, the contractors and the commissioning local authority, to ensure that they understood our ethos and our vision for the future. In doing so they were able to translate those values into the beautiful, light and much modernised building that we have today.
When design changes had to be made due to budget restrictions they were able to come up with viable alternatives without compromising their design values. There was excellent communication between ourselves and CBA. Our governors, premises manager and myself were closely involved in decision making.
Improving our facilities was a major priority for this school – enabling us to interact more effectively with our community and support and develop our children. CBA made manifest our ideal of ‘turning the school inside out’. We now have a large, dedicated art room, a very spacious library, classrooms which suit today’s learning activities, a community building for parent and after school classes in a school which is, quite simply, a lovely place to be in.
_ Sue Hamer _ Headteacher _Vittoria Primary School
Our work has been featured in the following publications:
➔100 Contemporary Green Buildings ➔Abitare ➔Architecture & Culture ➔The Architects’ Journal ➔The Architects’ Journal Specification ➔Architecture 09 RIBA Buildings of the year ➔Architecture Today ➔Building Design ➔C3 ➔Casabella ➔Country Life ➔DB Deutsche Bauzeitung ➔Detail Magazine ➔Ecologik ➔Evening Standard ➔Grand Designs ➔Homebuilding & Renovating ➔House & Garden ➔Icon ➔Inhabit Architecture Today ➔Interior Details ➔New Architecture 2, The Architecture Foundation ➔Progetto Legno ➔Riba Interiors ➔Uptown Magazine ➔Sequences Bois, Insertion dans la nature ➔Sublime ➔The Sunday Times ➔Wallpaper ➔WOODE ➔The Worlds of Interiors ➔XXI
➔2011 runners-up, Room for London competition organised by Living Architecture. ➔2010 winners of design competition, Café on Windrush Square, Brixton. ➔2008 Kielder Observatory short-listed in Nature category, World Architecture Festival, Barcelona. ➔2005 winners of RIBA open competition, Kielder Observatory, Northumberland. ➔2005 runners up, CABE Anglo-French housing competition at Melun-Senart, Paris with Atela Architects. ➔2002 commended, Urban Sustainability Competition at Lochend, Edinburgh. ➔2001 runners up EUROPAN 6 for housing in Southwark.
➔2013: RIBA Eastern Region Award, Walk Barn Farm. ➔2009: Galvanising Award, Kielder Observatory. ➔2009: Hadrian Award, Kielder Observatory. ➔2009: Civic Trust Award, Kielder Observatory. ➔2009: RIBA National Award, Kielder Observatory. ➔2008: Timber in Construction Award, Kielder Observatory.
➔2013: Kielder Observatory exhibited Architecture of Necessity, Virserum Konsthall, Sweden. ➔1998: Architecture Foundation Roadshow, Hammersmith and Fulham ➔2001: Make your case, exhibition at the Architecture Foundation, London ➔2001: EUROPAN 6, In Between Cities exhibition at the Architectural Association, Bedford Square, London ➔2001: Minimal Existence, exhibition at Isokon Flats, Highgate, London ➔2005: Open House London, Double Cottage in Wandsworth, featured ➔2006: Kielder Observatory, exhibition in Hexham, Northumberland ➔2007: Open House London, Eco Funnel in Holloway, featured ➔2009: Open House London, The Look Out in Islington, featured ➔2010: Summer Exhibition, exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts London