Archway Studios, London, United Kingdom
Undercurrent Architecture

Archway Studios is a live-workspace built in and around a 19thC rail viaduct. The project works with the constraints of an inner-city, industrial site next to a train line, and the challenges of a fortified design that engages its surroundings.

London is crossed by Victorian viaducts. These structures divide neighbourhoods, creating corridors of conflict, compounded by derelict and deindustrialised ‘brownfield’ arches.

Archway Studios occupies part of the viaduct, a vaulted workshop linked to an atrium with residential alcoves. The design works with the contrast between the compressed, cavernous qualities of the arch, and the slender, ecclesial spaces of the atrium and alcoves.

The site is severely constrained by its narrow plot and limited access to light, aspect and views. The building subverts these tight site conditions, encapsulating light and lofty interiors that offer release in spite of constraint.

A ring of slender foils mould the narrow site, forming a protective acoustic shell cupped around interior spaces. Daylight is scooped into the deep recesses of the arch through slits in the segmented foils, providing privacy and introspection while maintaining open connections with the surroundings.

The site presented unique challenges relating to vibration and noise proofing. To address these, the building is isolated and suspended on a rubber foundation with an independent casing lining the arch, dense steel walls and a sandwich of multilayered acoustic blanketing and dampening technologies.

The building shell complements the industrial heritage of the locality, with the rust-oxide steel skin and Palmwood cladding forming a striking relationship with the adjacent railway - a dramatic contrast to the interior in materials, volumes and the sense of respite from tough environmental conditions. Construction next to a live railway led to industrial assembly methods being used without undermining the hand crafted quality of the building.

The building's unique design and appearance helps it to stand out even when dwarfed by inner-city neighbours. As one of 10,000 arches that dissect neighbourhoods across London, it is a model that can be adapted for broad community benefit and regeneration.

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