DKH building, Dog Kennel Hill SE19
Winner of the RIBA Award for Best New Housing in London
Architect: John Smart Architects
Year built: 2008
I had no intention of viewing any newly built properties as part of my search but the estate agent photos of a flat in this Grand Designs-style modern building really sold the idea of living in an architect-designed glass-filled, semi-industrial looking space so I went along to the open day with an open mind.
First impressions weren’t great: whilst the exterior of the building was striking (an imaginative mix of glass, timber louvers, mesh panelling, stone gabions and coloured panels), the dried up plants, peeling panels, clearly vacant units and shabby surrounding area gave the whole development a slightly down-at-heel feel.
Things slightly improved once inside. The lower floor contained a compact reception room comprising open-plan kitchen, living and dining areas, opening onto a balcony (albeit one that looked out onto the basketball court of the local comp). A narrow slither of the room was double-height, with glazing extending up onto the upper floor, meaning that one of the bedrooms on the upper floor had a void overlooking the reception room – a nice design feature. Up the glass and wooden stairs were two smallish bedrooms (one with that void taking up valuable floorspace an a further balcony) and a bathroom with what appeared to be a concrete basin. It was all quite high-spec and the use of materials was interesting but the small room sizes and complete absence of built-in storage meant that it was difficult to actually imagine living in it.
I can see why the building won several awards when it was completed in 2008. It’s a striking piece of architecture, especially when considered as a complete unit. The fact that the rear elevation is made almost entirely from opaque glass means that the whole thing apparently lights up like a magic lantern at night. However, a magic lantern does not necessarily a suitable home make so I passed on making an offer.