The Ivy Avenue Loved ones Centre is a little charity in Hoxton, east London, that presents a playschool – an “oasis of heat and fun”, the website claims – for nearby less than-fives. Konstantin Melnikov (1890-1974) was a radical architect of early groundbreaking Russia who created an astonishing dwelling for himself in Moscow. The two would not have a great deal in typical, had they not been introduced together by a punchy, intimate, multifaceted, cross-bred creating that is made up of a lot more suggestions than others 50 times as large.
This is 54 Ivy Avenue, by the architect Sam Jacob. It is equally a house, at first meant for Jacob’s individual use, and enlarged and increased premises for the playgroup. It is a new constructing, a rounded brick framework, and an aged just one, retaining a fragment of a former pub where by the charity started out in 1981. The building’s attractiveness is immediate – childlike, you may say – a castle, a ship, a thing you can clamber above, with geometric openings by way of which a big toddler may possibly press matching shapes. It is also erudite, dense with architectural allusion.
Its location is built up of fragments and accidents. What would once have been designed of restricted-knit brick streets of a variety acquainted to British cities, interrupted by the far more roomy and substantial-minded proportions of a neighbouring Victorian college, has been interrupted some extra by wartime bombing and postwar preparing, leaving inexplicable voids and mismatches. There are backs of homes, overabundant automobile parking, and an eight-storey slab of council flats, striated with concrete balconies – component of the Shakespeare-themed Arden Estate – cheerfully termed Macbeth Residence.
Over time, a great deal of the old Ivy Road disappeared, leaving a fragment of terrace with the pub at its stop. An not known formal then drew a curved line on a prepare, denoting the boundary of an empty web-site upcoming to it. This oddity caught the eye of Jacob, who noticed an prospect to create himself a house, though also upgrading the playgroup amenities. He was previously a single of the triumvirate who until eventually 2014 ran the iconoclastic apply Body fat, authors of the BBC’s studios at Roath Lock in Cardiff and (with Grayson Perry) A Property for Essex, and wished to display what he could do in his personal identify. So he started out to work out a offer with the relatives centre.
Seven many years afterwards, it currently being fairly hard to convey off this partnership, the challenge is completed. The playschool occupies the ground flooring and basement, the household the floors above. The bottom section of the construction fills the curve of the web-site, adding a massive, bull-nosed wall to the aged terrace fragment, a type that repeats at the upper concentrations to enclose the main part of the household, then repeats once more to make a little rooftop pavilion. The design and style sets up a chorus of U-styles, joined by some Os – circular openings and a rooftop cylinder – and punctuated by an exotic pattern of diamond and triangle-topped windows.
Inside of the household there is an array of contrasting volumes – a double-height living home in the diamond-punctured curve a superior perform platform achieved by a ladder an introspective, wood-lined get the job done room at some point a roof terrace for viewing the raucous London skyline – all orchestrated close to a sequence of stairs that begin outdoors, wrapping spherical the curve, and continue on indoors. It feels like various properties in one, joined, to use a extravagant artwork-historical time period, in a promenade architecturale.
The reference to Melnikov, whose household also features cylinders and diamond home windows, is (for individuals in the know) apparent. There are a lot more, considerably less placing borrowings: from the 19th-century visionary Joseph Gandy, who painted stacked-up compositions of unique architectural types, and from the innovative three-dimensional preparations of the early 20th-century Viennese maestro Adolf Loos. There are bits from the 1980s tasks of John Hejduk and Toyo Ito, American and Japanese respectively.
The house number, writ huge in metalwork above the entrance doorway, jokingly echoes the graphics of the New York club Studio 54. The rooftop buildings are influenced by the drinking water tanks previously mentioned that city’s apartment blocks. It is, in other words and phrases, an idiosyncratic encyclopedia of architectural background, to which are added nearby components: Jacob’s design and style picks up on a significant brick wall that encloses the college playground, on the advertisement hoc accretion to the backs of terrace properties, on the methods and decks of the council housing. To the now multifarious neighbourhood he adds levels of his own, but brings them all again collectively in a single fulfilling object, certain together by the sober London brick of which it is primarily designed.
It’s conceivable that the references to Hejduk and Gandy may possibly not be promptly comprehended by the youthful users of the playgroup, or certainly the average adult passerby. It may well at the same time be noted that the architectural exciting is primarily bestowed on the home, the playschool staying offered much more ordinary spaces in the reduce levels, while the government director of the household centre has declared herself “thrilled” with this “wonderful facility for the community”.
But the recondite character of the resources issues not at all nor will the future inhabitants of the household (Jacob has decided on for now not to stay there) be the only beneficiaries of his imagination. The architecture gives simple plenty of pleasures to the extensive majority who don’t know these histories, even though also offering evidence of a imaginative brain at operate, which may at the least provoke some curiosity.
Melnikov endured vocation-ending denunciation when his model fell from favour beneath Stalin. It would be an exaggeration to say that Unwanted fat skilled everything like this (and Jacob, for instance, has been gainfully utilized on just lately accomplished updates to the entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum), but it’s even now the circumstance that mainstream design in Britain uncovered them way too unique to award them a lot by way of skyscrapers and significant museum buildings. The evidence of Ivy Street is that the Fats legacy still has substantially to offer you the constructed cloth of the nation.