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Black Box by MATA Architects

Black Box by MATA Architects


Black Box is a small first floor rear extension to a mid-terrace Victorian-era house in Islington, London. Our client, a professional couple, wanted a space that could function both as a home office and occasional guest bedroom with an en suite bathroom.

Situated on a dense urban site with neighboring buildings in close proximity, any proposed extension would be overlooked from multiple sides – a typical London situation. At the same time, driven by a desire to maximize natural daylight provision and celebrate key views across adjacent gardens, we wanted the new space to benefit from large windows. We asked ourselves, can we introduce large glazing whilst regulating levels of shading, natural daylight, privacy, and security at different times of the day?

The extension is conceived as a ‘reconfigurable box’ in dark stained Siberian Larch. Two bespoke counterbalanced shutters are manually operated internally using winches. These allow for multiple configurations of the ‘box; from fully open with window overhang to counter summer solar gain, to shut tight.

The dynamic nature of the façade encourages the user to interact with the architecture and adapt their environment for comfort.

The drawings show an extension on the ground floor, an additional ‘black box’, that was designed together with the ‘black box’ on the first floor (and approved under the same planning application). The client chose to phase the implementation of this scheme with the first-floor element being delivered first and the ground floor component to follow at a later date.

Photos by Peter Landers photography

About the client

Our client, a professional couple; lawyer and management consultant, wanted a place that could double as a home office and as a self-contained guest bedroom with en suite. The challenge, with such a small footprint, was to develop a design that was able to adapt to these two very different requirements.

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Architect Quote

This is a small and seemingly simple first-floor extension conceived as a ‘reconfigurable box’ – both internally and externally. The triumph, for us, is that this simplicity succeeds in concealing so much precision engineering that is packed into the box. The carefully crafted result is borne out of a close collaboration with our structural engineer and specialist fabricator (based just outside of Edinburgh) where the extension was largely prefabricated and tested in factory conditions before delivery to and installation on site.

Client Testimonial

We appointed MATA Architects to design an extension of our ground floor and replace a dilapidated winter garden/conservatory on the first floor. The aim of the project was to increase our living space on the ground floor and to repurpose an old family bathroom on the first floor in the form of a much-needed home office that could double as a guest bedroom with ensuite bathroom.

We loved the idea of the first floor as this dynamic black box that could be reconfigured and were delighted that, following a lengthy and, at times, delicate planning process, MATA was able to obtain full consent. While the consent included the ground-floor extension we chose to prioritize and phase the works, beginning with the first floor.

MATA prepared detailed drawings and specifications for tenders, which they invited and managed. They negotiated savings with contractors on our behalf and administered the building contract. While the construction phase was bumpy at times, they remained professional throughout and a genuine ally. We now have a beautiful and highly functional, if rather unconventional, first-floor extension.




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