Sarah Wigglesworth Architects - 9 Stock Orchard Street, Islington, England Print
Sunday, 28 October 2007 06:00


When architects design a project for their own use, they usually get the freedom to experiment and develop new ideas. They also get to convey their philosophies without the hurdles that are usually put there by the client.

The Straw House - is an unusual design by the Architects for their house and associated studio office located in Islington, North London, England.  What makes the building stand out is the use of a number of innovative technologies based around principles of sustainable design, many of which were being used in an urban context for the first time. These include a new system of walling incorporating straw-bales.


STOgroundfloor.jpg According to the architects, the intention of is to provide a model of sustainable design living in an urban setting. At the same time, the project introduces innovative spatial, formal and material solutions to housing design. The main floor of the house is raised up on columns, with the garden and chickens occupying the under-croft. The plan of the living areas is designed to accommodate flexible living patterns, whilst the bedroom wing is conceived of as a warm haven, wrapped by a protective wall of straw. A five-floor tower of books rises through the roof, providing a lookout reading room at the top. The roof of the house is planted with a meadow planted wild strawberries.

Ground Floor Plan

STOfirstfloor.jpgThe project also includes a large studio office, responding to the need for hybrid house/office spaces in the twenty first century city. The office fronts a railway line and is faced in sandbags for acoustic protection. The sandbags contain sand, lime and cement. By the time the bag would decay, the wall would have transformed into concrete that kept the original shape of the sandbags.

Sustainable Design
The design uses passive energy principles, with the heavily insulated straw bale wall wrapping around the north-east and north-west elevations, whilst the south elevation is glazed to capture heat from the sun.

First Floor Plan


Section through the house

STOsectionb.jpgThe tower acts as a thermal flue, catching the wind and encouraging natural ventilation to cool the house in the summer. Materials have been chosen with a view to limiting their environmental impact. The north wall is made of standard straw-bales, stacked between load-bearing timber ladders and protected on the outside with a translucent rainscreen, which allows the bales to be seen as well as ventilating them. The inside face is lime plastered to provide fire protection. Straw has the advantage of being extremely cheap, recyclable, highly insulative and having very low embodied energy . The bales are also very quick and easy to build with. This prototype system has been developed by the architects with a view to wider usage, particularly in the self-build market.


Section across the house


Other innovative materials include sandbags, a duvet type cladding to the office and the first ever domestic use of gabion walls (the steel cages often seen on the sides of motorways) filled with recycled concrete. Rainwater is collected and solar-pumped up to irrigate the roof meadow and feed toilets and washing machines. Further water savings are made through the incorporation of one of the first composting toilets to be used in the UK in an urban situation.

South West Elevation

Achieving Sustainability will require from the Architect a thorough reexamination of the core principle of his design. Sarah Wigglesworth Architects went through hard work to produce a smart and attractive  Architecture that uses innovative and environmentally friendly materials like straw-bales, recycled concrete, sandbags. They created beautiful spaces, intricate volumes designed for a lower energy and a better interaction with the surrounding environment.


North East Elevation

Stock Orchard Street has received the following awards:
2004 RIBA Award: Sustainability Award
2004 RIBA Award: Regional Award
2002 Civic Trust Award
2001 FX/Blueprint Award Best Residential Building of the Year


© All material displayed in the Article are coutesy of Sarah Wigglesworth Architects. No reproduction is allowed without their prior consent.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 13 December 2009 09:34