An impressive house on the edge of Highgate Wood, with an honest but rich material palette including fair-faced brickwork and concrete and conventional timber framing.

The house is an amalgamation of three intersecting volumes built in place of the client’s previous. The outer two wings contain kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms, and the void between, a lofty triple-height living space and gallery.

Client: Private House
Architects: Carmody Groarke
Project Value: £2.4m
Winner: RIBA Regional Award 2017
Shortlist: AJ  House of the Year 2017
Longlist: RIBA House of the Year 2017
The house before the project began

The existing house on the site.

The land around Lanchester project

A subterranean river was culverted through the site.

Window view

The honest but rich material palette is subject to meticulous detailing and execution. Frameless windows punctuate large planes of fair-faced load-bearing brickwork, concrete, stonework and oak joinery to maximise the bosky setting.


Paradoxically, the massive construction needed to be as light and efficient as possible due to poor ground conditions. MHA proposed a hybrid structure incorporating a timber framed upper storey and load-bearing masonry below.

Timber frame and load-bearing masonry

Timber frame and load-bearing masonry.

Calculations to minimise the size of glazing restraints

Calculations to minimise the size of glazing restraints.

MHA designed each elevation painstakingly to allow the long runs, irregular forms and super-insulated cavities to be entirely free of movement joints or other unsightly features.

Lanchester brickwork

“Beautifully constructed from brick […] the Highgate house has a potent sense of solidity and rootedness, with massive walls and deeply chiselled window reveals. The variegated reddish brick is palpably loadbearing, a calculated riposte to the glib slickness of stick-on panels, in which masonry is reduced to just another textural option, a thin dead skin instead of living sinew. At Highgate the brick is an animate organism, powerful and muscular, giving expressive life to geometry and space.”

Catherine Slessor, Architectural Review

Brick soffit lintels

Brick soffit lintels.

Bed joint reinforcement to enable elevations free of movement joints

Bed joint reinforcement to enable elevations free of movement joints.

Ambitious groundworks in difficult, waterlogged ground included a piled raft and a deep swimming pool built less than half a metre from a large public culvert.

The structure and membranes were designed to provide protection against ground-borne gases.

The basement excavation

The basement excavation.

Basement excavation sequence

Basement excavation sequence.

The completed structural frame

The completed structural frame.

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