Raw and exposed with a distinct rural Romanticism, UllmayerSylvester Architects’ updated version of the terrace house, called the Whatcotts Yard or ‘In-between‘ project, is best known as an independent award-winning collaboration with Annalie Riches and Barti Garibaldo. The project, located in Whatcotts Yard, Stoke Newington won several awards in 2004 for its unique and direct approach to building sustainable homes. Since then, Silvia Ullmayer and Allan Sylvester opened their practice and have since gone on to work on innovative projects such as The New Summerhouse and Minihome Nursery, both in Hackney, London.
The Whatcotts Yard project was undertaken between 2001 – 2004 when the group met at what is now the London Metropolitan University. After deciding to build themselves a home, it took them another year to find a suitable site, and then two more years to get planning permission, design and then fully complete the build.
Choosing sustainable materials, the homes were constructed from Parallam laminated timber posts and beams. The homes also include used sheep wool and recycled newspaper for insulation, as well as a green roof planted with sedum. Annalie Riches told design journalist Caroline Roux in a Guardian interview: “It’s supposed to protect the roof felt from sun damage, and in time it will form its own ecosystem. The first summer we were here  it changed color, too, it was covered with so many ladybirds.”
High ceilings and expansive room left use of the interior spaces up to the imagination. Accordingly, each of the three homes was customized with different priorities in mind. Barti Garibaldo’s focus was on a large kitchen area to entertain, and a desire to have a studio leading out to the garden, while Silvia Ullmayer’s kitchen has an urban outlook. Annalie Riches opted to restrict her metropolitan view from the kitchen preferring to look at nature while cooking, and has even allowed for a double height space between the ground and first floor to hang her trapeze in her home.
Unlike many architects, UllmayerSylvester Architects have developed a design philosophy based on hands-on, direct experience in the pursuit of thoughtful and well-executed design. The Whatcotts Yard project serves as an appropriate example of these principles. As a self-built home, simple and functional design is at its core, but as these re-invented terrace houses prove, simple does not exclude the possibility of hosting quite a few eco-friendly attributes.
“It is a reminder of the value of direct architectural design – in contrast to the work of some architects who try too hard to be too clever with quotes, gambits and tricks.” (AJ First Building Award, Judges Summary)