Cites as large and old as London often have a very convoluted makeup due to centuries of construction. One of the relics left behind from the Victorian era are the city’s viaducts. These bridges kept traffic in this ever more congested city flowing. But they also cut up neighborhoods and keep neighbors apart. Undercurrent Architects has rethought how one of these arch spaces can be used to benefit inner-city communities.
Undercurrent created Archway Studios, a live-work space, around one of these 19th century viaducts. It consists of residential alcoves centered on a colossal vaulted workshop. The vault sits right up against a viaduct on a tiny plot of land. Due to the tight depth of the plot and the height of the building, it has a certain cathedral like quality inside. The amorphous exterior looks like a piece of fabric that has been draped over the vault. The exterior has been finished in oxidized steel that creates a link to its older neighbor. Light bathes the interior from windows in the folds of the skin, a bank of windows on one side, and a skylight that runs along the peak of the vault. The windows are slim to ensure privacy while letting in light and views of the stunning cityscape. Keeping sound out was another major challenge of this site. In order to minimize this, the building sits isolated on a rubber foundation. The steel skin and other acoustic blanketing and dampening technologies help to keep the inside as quite as a church.
The architects hope that Archway Studios can be an example for other such projects to follow in the inner city. By using them for the community, hopefully the viaducts will be able to fulfill their original purpose, bringing people together.