The Berry Street Residence is a home constructed with simplicity in mind. Sitting on top of a medium-sized block of flats in the east of central London, with the three towers of the Barbican a stone’s throw away, the flat was designed by Stirling Prize-winning architect David Chipperfield.
While Chipperfield designed the entire block (which was originally a warehouse) in 2000, it is surely with this penthouse apartment that he had the most fun, affording him a prime opportunity to indulge in a moment of architectural commemoration, with the influence of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1950) in unmistakeable evidence.
As with the Farnsworth House, the Berry Street Residence is essentially a glass box. But the cues do not stop there. Entrance to the house is from a lower floor, occupied by three bedrooms, storage space and a large hallway. The division of space here is characteristically modernist, where the private space to sleep is tucked away to the side and the space to live is bathed in light.
Speaking of the living space, this part of the house also features the same clean Miesian delineation of space, open-plan yet divided into different zones: a reception room (which can be screened off with sliding walls), a central kitchen and dining room, and a living area flanked by windows on three sides.
The kitchen is separated from the living area by a huge space divider, doubling as a wall of cabinets, and decked out in sleek oak veneer panelling. This is offset nicely by a series of stainless steel drawers, hood, cooker and sink, all contained within a precise rectangle worktop situated in the middle of the kitchen area, all of which neatly match up to the deep grey tone of the floor as well as greys evident throughout the furniture, fixtures and fittings.
Indeed, what with the notable addition of the lovely daybed and sofa, upholstered in black leather, the colour palette is clear and simple. And in accordance with the Farnsworth House again, colour is kept to a minimum in the flat, all the better to bring out the brightness of the scene outside.
Yet speaking of the scene, unlike Mies van der Rohe’s classic, it of course does not sit peacefully in an idyllic countryside setting, and therefore cannot in the slightest bit be considered an ode to nature. Instead, with floor to ceiling windows on all sides it offers an almost total view of the London cityscape. This house is more a celebration of the historic texture of London’s built environment, with not just the Barbican but also the Shard and St. Paul’s Cathedral within view of the penthouse.
Photo via TheModernHouse
But the use of the Farnsworth House precedent still lends the design a remarkable image of confidence. Among a city awash with penthouse apartments, this is a remarkably self-assured and elegant work of modernist design.