Architect Jake Edgley brought together three community groups to create these cool, contemporary Islington homes that champion innovative New Zealand design

Words: Rachel Mantock

After taking a sabbatical in New Zealand 13 years ago, founder of Edgley Design, Jake Edgley, spent some time designing homes on the country’s South Island. Here he was introduced to timber frame construction that became the staple technique behind his architectural company that he set up a year later. On his return to London, he developed two small houses that sit behind his more recent Godson Street project in Islington, known as the twin ‘secret houses’.

This project allowed Edgley to develop the ethos of his practice in relation to urban and spatial design, materiality and an approach to handmade detailing. The ‘secret houses’ project opened the door for the Edgley projects that have followed since, carrying their signature look.

Of the recently completed Godson Street project in Islington, a collection of cleverly designed homes, he says: ‘Three community groups came together for this project; they were all owners of the entire rear boundary to the site. We collaborated to develop the site and it’s now been inhabited by these groups, so it was a real community effort from the start to finish.’

Inside, the New Zealand style continues with ultra modern furnishings featuring wood and floating staircases

Inside, the New Zealand style continues with ultra modern furnishings featuring wood and floating staircases

The collection of houses along Godson Street carry a raw, stripped back aesthetic that arose from having a limited budget, yet these homes are of a high quality.

‘The exposed concrete and blockwork featuring glass infill has an industrial element to it, which is a reference to the industrial history of Islington and the “modern industry” of the largely digital design firms that now occupy the hectic surrounding area,’ Edgley explains.

The expressive form of each home emerged from the lack of natural light on the site

‘The expressive form of each home emerged from the lack of natural light on the site,’ he says. With angled walls and roofs, wrapped in metal and bringing in expanses of light, along with variations in cladding colour and details that express individuality, Edgley and his community team have created something that is spectacular and architecturally unique, especially for residential units.

‘As the buildings fit very tightly into the space, we had to have very high environmental standards, such as introducing flat roof systems, to achieve the result we did,’ explains Edgley. ‘We feel that the spatial design of the residential units achieves privacy without being introspective, which was a challenge for such a small, overlooked site in a busy area.’

When it comes to materials, Edgley and his team constantly experiment with different technologies and textures that can provide futuristic detailing and more eco-friendly alternatives.

An example of this is their use of in situ concrete that acts as a rain screen to their signature timber frames and their exploration of the technical possibilities of attractive zinc cladding.

Placing the Godson Street development into the Islington landscape in a unified way was at the forefront of Edgley and his team of neighbours’ plans. Considering the north London area, he says: ‘For us, the concept behind this project was to take the Georgian typology of narrow terraced buildings and to reimagine them as modern dwellings.

‘This combined with the “flat over commercial” typology of Chapel Market means that we have created a traditional Islington building with strong contemporary aspects.’

It’s also a fantastic taste of New Zealand design in the heart of N1.