15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

 

To fully appreciate the ruinous formation of 15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha & GROUPWORK, we must first understand the compelling past of the site in which it sits. In its place was once an 11th-century limestone Norman abbey that was initially built by Baron Jordan Briset. It was later expanded, remodelled and subdivided into grand houses for newly protestant barons then further broken down in the 19th century into smaller rented properties which supposedly housed Marx and Lenin. The recently completed building which includes Taha’s home, seven other apartments and the office of his own architectural practice, is a fictional resurrection of the lost abbey where layers of course, stippled and smooth stone encase the rectilinear seven-storey building.

The design of 15 Clerkenwell Close aims to integrate, extract and maker better sense of context through the investigation of materials and construction techniques. According to Taha, “using quarry found finishes, part carved and abandoned stone columns, revealed cloisters and mosaic floors,” which at first alludes to local archaeology, but also raises questions about our architectural heritage and broader culture.

The stone and concrete may seem like facadism however it has been intricately detailed and engineered to be load-bearing as well as act as a cladding. Taha pushed for this approach believing that the skill of combining material and structure to give form to architecture has been lost to modern building techniques that favour layering cladding over a frame.

 

Related: Caroline Place in Bayswater, London by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK.

 

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK | Yellowtrace

 

The stone is exposed internally as well as externally, with mouldings and Anaglypta wallpaper patterns cast into it. Internally, the spaces are textural, open and cling to an industrial vibe. Intersecting volumes and exposed steel structure comprise the office space while the apartments enjoy column free expanses. Warmth is mustered with the use of timber lined walls and joinery as well as exposed concrete and brick.

The building’s arresting exterior has unsurprisingly caused quite the stir and is not a neighbourhood favourite. While Taha has obtained numerous accolades in his career including two Riba awards this year and being shortlisted for last year’s Stirling prize, this building has also been nominated for the Carbuncle Cup, the anti-Stirling prize run by the magazine Building Design for the worst building of the year. He is also in the middle of a sticky planning dispute over the construction, which could end in its demolition.

Taha’s work doesn’t fit into a specific style with his projects varying wildly in terms of scale, material and detail. In a recent article, he told the Guardian: “It’s awful for your imagination and job if you’re doing the same thing again and again. It’s not good for your brain.” Instead, Taha leans into that which is challenging, complicated yet also playful.

15 Clerkenwell Close reminds us that our understanding of the built environment can be nourished through the “poetic possibilities inherent within the structural and aesthetic qualities of all materials” and that we should embrace inspiration from all sources including people, history and even geology.

 

Related: Caroline Place in Bayswater, London by Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK.

 

 


[Images courtesy of Amin Taha Architects + GROUPWORK. Photography by Timothy Soar.]

 

About The Author

Fenina Acance

Architecting away in Melbourne, Fenina is a shameless fashion, art and design fanatic who loves defying the relentless Melbournian uniform of black on black on black. Often spotted strutting a boisterous mix of pattern and colour, her eclectic love for the bold, raw and textured fuels her passion for design and contemporary art. When not indulging in Cy Twombly’s sensitive scribbles or Serra’s evocative sculptural forms, her love for everything Italian consumes the rest of her time. Whether it’s the language, design or food (especially food), Fenina is obsessed!

4 Responses

  1. MATA

    Whilst I was admiring this unique outstanding masterpiece many passerby joined. They were utterly flabbergasted that some are seeking its demolition.

    Reply
    • Ross Winter

      I couldn’t agree more! This building is a masterpiece. To contemplate its demolition is a crime. I will make a point of visiting it next time I am in London.

      Reply

Leave a Reply