Traditionally, in London mansion apartment buildings provide an attractive and human scale articulated edge to the street, park or community square. The scale can be quite large, going to eight storeys, but they never feel overpowering as they are broken up with modulation of the façade as well as gables and articulation at roof level to break up the skyline. The flats favoured by most developers these days by contrast are very blocky and square, often inappropriately tall, and don’t support a feeling of place and community.
Mansion apartments also make clever use of gardens and green space – they often have strips of planting in front of the facades and then courtyard gardens in front of the entrances. Our architecture will create a wide range of flat types, sizes and costs with just a few apartments from each lift, as opposed to many blocks of flats which provide identical, uniform units with up to 20 or 30 flats per lift core / stairwell.
In terms of the architecture itself, mansion apartment buildings have generous bay windows, often with French Windows onto long balconies. In this way, the balconies become part of the facade and indoor and outdoor space is blurred making it usable and attractive – unlike modern blocks of flats that tend to opt for identical stuck on balconies protruding from the façade which actually provide little usable outside space..
Mansion apartment architecture has also been very decorative with brick, render and metalwork and fine details and motifs linked to nature. This is important on large buildings as it helps break down the scale to make the mansion apartments more human and less overpowering when you are close to them. In this way they can be quite grand and form a clear pattern from a distance, but more domestic and human scale close up. The integration of man-made natural forms and plants and gardens helps to break down the scale and make these structures elegant and welcoming. Modernist blocks of flats often feel very austere at scale, lack any domestic references making them bland and dominating close-up as the scale doesn’t change a great deal from far to near.
It is a genuine aspiration on this project to completely break the mould of building high density blocks of flats, as well as avoiding suburban sprawl. Instead, by redesigning the mansion apartment to meet contemporary living standards and the best in environmental design, we can deliver the homes needed much more attractively. As the architecture develops and we study some of the best examples, particularly those at the edge of the many parks in London and even elsewhere in Europe, we will ensure that we build on the traditional London qualities that separate historic mansion flats from the pervasive unattractive modern blocks of flats.