PREFAB FRIDAY: David Adjaye’s East London House

by , 04/27/07

“David Adjaye” prefabricated building “De Beauvoir Town” Hackney Timber

Here’s a recipe for good design: take London-based architect David Adjaye, mix with a prefab timber construction system, drop on a site in the middle of Hackney, a London suburb, shake and mix – and you get a stunning solid timber residence for our Prefab Friday series. Adjaye recently designed this 150 sq. meter abode using Eurban’s solid spruce timber building structures as its main structural component (Eurban claims that each cubic meter of timber saves almost a ton of carbon dioxide emissions compared with a brick or block structure). The actual build time for the structure of the house totaled a mere five days.

“David Adjaye”, prefabricated building, “De Beauvoir Town”, Hackney Timber

Solid timber building structures have some interesting benefits to them. The first one is, obviously, the fact that it is very easy and quick to build with, designed to improve thermal and acoustic performance and reduce the building’s carbon footprint, and factory-manufactured to order, which means that there is significantly less waste on site. It can also be easily recycled and reused. Timber, if properly managed, is a renewable resource and fairly low-energy in its manufacturing compared to steel or concrete. There is one problem – and that is that Metsäliitto Timbers, the providers of the timber, sources only 70% of their wood from FSC or PEFC certified forests. By comparison, 70% is not bad, and higher than that of the industry standard, but it would be much better if that figure was the full 100%, and they seem to be moving towards that goal. I’d also prefer it if it was all FSC certified because I tend to trust their certification process more, but that’s just me.

David Adjaye was recently nominated for the Stirling Prize for his Whitechapel Idea Store in London, and is just as well known for his role as a BBC co-presenter and host of the six part series on modern architecture called Dreamspaces.

Via BDOnline



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  1. bob240964 September 5, 2008 at 10:43 am

    After finding articles about your house and David Adjaye, I fell on the site you dedicate to it. I can easily understand you’re very proud of this fantastic building – who wouldn’t – and went all the way through, but only found the elevations. As an amateur architect, I had to try and reconstitute the floor plans, based on your pictures and other I found on the net, but I soon realized not all the rooms are displayed. I even looked for the size of the 1987 series 3 BMW parked in front of the house on one picture, and of Eames’ lounge chair in your living room in order to estimate the general dimensions of the house, but it all gave rather unsatisfactory, and sometimes contradictory results. Of course I should have known, but it has now become something af an obsession.

    Could you please, by any means, provide me a copy of the floor plans ? I’d be extremely grateful to get even a quick sketch.

    On the other hand I fully realize you could consider this as an infringement to your privacy, and understand you not willing to answer my request. In that case, thanks anyway for your patience on reading my poor English.

    Thanks a million in advance.

  2. rich May 22, 2007 at 4:55 am



  3. Jorge May 5, 2007 at 1:52 am

    Thank you Ed, that would be greatly appreciated!

  4. Ed May 4, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Nice to read so much comment on my house both positive and negative.
    Thanks to all of you who have recorded your delight in observation on these web pages.
    The negative comments too are welcome and some points of view are simply misunderstanding of the limited images you see of a home not yet finished.
    The Superstructure actually took only TWO days to construct. You can see it’s construction on my web site of the house at
    I’m not sure what your Tobacco barns look like bob but part of the idea was to gain the look of the wood that I’d seen on farm barns in Switzerland. I like it but understand it’s not to all tastes.
    Bruce, you’re right, better pictures will show windows that have an incredible view. The front of the house you see faces East and towards industrial buildings opposite and the road. The rear looks over rows of Gardens far into the horizon to the West and stunning sunsets. The window on the top floor is nearly 6m long. There are mostly large windows to the property giving incredible light throughout the day.
    Thanks Manimal, there will be more pictures on the web site when it’s finished.
    Inverted Pants man, are you a super hero ? The neighbours love the house. I’ve had much positive feedback and you’re right about the gates.
    As Richie observes, they are just the old site gates which are actually covered in construction signs but the photographer has retouched them out in photoshop. There will be replacement gates soon that match the cladding.
    Kiran, there will be interior images on the site soon when it’s finished. You’ll see bright spaces with large windows and great privacy all round.
    Richie, it’s actually triple height with a gallery at the front so you get the full height of the building inside next to the stair well.
    Geoff, the roof is clad the same and though we had intentions to collect rain water for recycling the cost of the purification system were great so it got cut out when the budget got tight.
    Jac, thanks for the wise words. The wood is a deep brown now it has been stained. The pictures don’t do it justice.
    Elsa, these images and the story broke ahead of the completion date. I cannot stop a curious paper sending their photographer down to take pictures from the street. The images are now all over the internet.
    Jorge, if you want more pictures you can talk to me. it’s my house so I’ve documented it along the way.
    I shoot Architecture for a living so I’ll send you some nice pictures when it’s done.
    Anna, thanks for the info about the research. Yes we have built a concrete floating slab to sit the superstructure on. We used hemp to insulate the walls. In an area where there is much subsidence it is a sensible foundation for the building. It is likely to be standing long after the Victorian ones around it.

  5. Jay May 1, 2007 at 11:35 am

    What are you taking about? This is ugly? Look at the rich texture of the dark wood. The high window would alow alot of sunlight into the home while at the same time the exterior view’s going to downplay the urban view. This is a “sleeper”. No one will notice it untill they take a second look. That’s a virtue in modernism.

  6. anna May 1, 2007 at 2:34 am

    … but having just had a better look at the Eds Shed website, I see that this little house does in fact have a concrete slab floor! Fantastic!

    Also, for those of you who were talking about the underutilised roof before, it appears to be a usable deck space.

  7. anna May 1, 2007 at 2:33 am

    An *entirely* timber building is not ideal actually.

    The Centre for Design at RMIT University did some research into what the most ecologically sound method of house building was overall with regard to embodied energy and energy used during the lifetime of the building. In a warm temperate climate at least, concrete slab (partially recycled content) with a timber framed and lined structure above it was the most sustainable in terms of energy.

    All timber buildings don’t have enough thermal mass and therefore change temperature too easily and concrete/brick homes require too much energy to manufacture in the first place.

  8. Jorge April 30, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Hey guys! We’ll be adding a few more pictures later on during the month of this residence as soon as we get them from the architect, as well as more information on this residence. So keep watching the site for an update.

  9. Moom April 30, 2007 at 10:57 am

    …more info

  10. Moom April 30, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Ahem… those of you looking for more photos might want to check out the Eurban website, and look for the ‘Northchurch House’. Judging from the house next door, the window sizes, and the position of the front gate, that’s the place. Sadly, it still doesn’t give much idea of what the other two sides look like, though.

    I think these pictures are hobbled by the lack of a garden and the overall choice of colours – together with the pale-ish brick walls surrounding it, the dark timber cladding gives the whole thing a bit of a ‘washed-out’ feel, imho. when that tree in front is in bloom, it’ll look lovely. Personally, I’m reserving judgement – I think the inside spaces could potentially be wonderful.

  11. Reden April 30, 2007 at 7:02 am

    looks interesting! where is the roof?

  12. InvertedPantsMan April 30, 2007 at 4:20 am

    yeah! give us your plans and sections!

    /angry mob

  13. elsa April 29, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    I truly like this site and the architecture you show here but why do we never get to see the plans and drawings for the houses you show!?! it would mean so much for the understanding of whether its really a good project or just a nice eco facade.

  14. Jac April 28, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    This flurry of “ugly” opinions is one’s own. I think it’s beautiful in the minimalist sense. For me, i love that particular shade of brown and the texture is so subtle, very comforting. Pity there aren’t interior images, it seems all white in there. There is an outline of a window on the right side (2nd pic) and there might be more windows at the back, cos we can only see 2 sides. Give credit where it’s shown, alright?

  15. Geoff Cohen April 28, 2007 at 9:17 am

    I thought to myself, imagine walking up to this structure, is this something I could love. Sadly, the answer for me is no, this does not move me and I agree that the neighbors would be calling it a monstrosity of a house.

    Compared to so many pre-fab structures that have elegance and lovely characteristics, I don’t see how this could thrill someone, but to each his (or her) own.

    I wonder about the roof as well…a green roof could be a virtual park for the residents.

  16. Richie April 28, 2007 at 8:40 am

    I suspect that more photographs, and possibly floorplans, would reveal the design to be more worthy of respect and appreciation. I can’t imagine that the mismatched plywood gates are a finished design detail ? They do seem more like a job site security measure, rather than a finished aspect. So many details are missing, such as the window placement on the other 2, non-visible, sides and what the apportionment of interior spaces are. I do find myself curious about this buiding as I’m a fan of double height ‘cube’ like designs as a simple, low cost, dwelling concept. I’ll have to reserve further critique until more of the actual house is visible.

  17. Kiran April 28, 2007 at 1:45 am

    like it. I agree with a generic need for more windows, but it is in a crowded suburb, and how many of us really want our neighbours to know all we’re doing? It fits its environment well.

    Would be fun to have interiors pics too

  18. The Revolution Corporation April 27, 2007 at 5:15 pm
  19. The Revolution Corporation April 27, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    i get the aesthetic (on a balnk canvas), but don’t think it fits this site. i appreciate the drama of directed view (like Ando does so well) & hope that the other side of the building has some great view windows. wood is going to look shabby in short order.

  20. InvertedPantsMan April 27, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    I think it’s a lovely building and if I was the neighbour in the unanimous brik house I would be so jealous. If you cannot distiguish this beuatifully detailed house from a barn you obviously have a badly develloped eye for modern architecture. The plywood gate does seem to bee a bit out of place though if you ask me. I’ll bet the interior is a feast of lightness and clarity in shrill contrast to the somewhat closed interior.

    You might want to check out for another episode of prefab friday if you like solid timber framed buildings. If you haven’t featured them already that is.

  21. Manimal April 27, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous building.

  22. Firoz April 27, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    I have to agree with Baffled Bob. The exterior is not in the least bit aesthetically pleasing. I know modern architects dislike any surface decoration or ornamentation, but surely they can design something pleasing to the eye without having to resort to pastiche. I hate to say it, but this just adds to the growing perception that prefabs are aesthetically plain and unattractive.

    By the way, I have visited the Idea Store in Whitechapel and didn’t think there was anything particularly remarkable or well designed about that building either (although I certainly laud the architect and planners for their desire to make it a socially inclusive space for the local community).

  23. Baffled Bob April 27, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Has the world gone completely insane? This is beautiful? & the architect who designed it is brilliant? As admirable as Adjaye’s ecological intentions are, this shed looks like an upended fruit crate replete w/ mildew & dry rot discoloration. Kentucky Burley tobacco curing barns have more aesthetic appeal than this shack & the plywood sheet entry gates, hung between brick with woodgrain facing different directions adds to an effect that must thrill neighboring homeowners. Perhaps this masterpiece is meant to help Hackney live up to its name!

  24. Bruce April 27, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Ugly building. Better pictures might show windows that real people would want in their homes.
    does he use the roof for water catchment systems?

  25. Matthew April 27, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Does anyone know of a similar engineered timber system sold in the U.S.?

    Seems economical and ecological.

  26. David April 27, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Beautiul building. I appreciate the article’s treatment of both the positive and negative aspects of the buildings use of wood. Keep up the good work.

  27. Nick Simpson April 27, 2007 at 7:18 am

    I love timber buildings – this is a beautiful example by a brilliant architect…

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