The house designed by Richard Rogers for his parents has been restored by Philip Gumuchdjian as a London base for Harvard GSD
22 Parkside was built by Richard Rogers in 1968 as a home for his parents, and a hand-made prototype for industrially-produced housing. The family’s gift of the grade 2*-listed London house to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) should secure its future as a site of experimentation, but after 50 years of domestic use it needed extensive renovation and adaptation to its new role. The project was entrusted to Philip Gmuchdjian of Gumuchdjian Architects. “I first saw the building in 1980, when I had just started working for Richard and was sent round to fix a blind”, he recalls. “I had never seen – or even imagined – a space like it.” It comprises two structures, the House and the Lodge, arranged with three distinct outdoor spaces as an ‘enfilade’, enhanced by Rogers’ use of wide-span steel portal frames and fully-glazed facades.
The Lodge – a former carport – provides sleeping accommodation
Gumuchdjian restored the organisation of the building to that existing in its period of “greatest significance”, from the mid-1970s into the late 1990s (with small alterations, such as en-suite bathrooms), and has tried to renovate the fabric while retaining some of the patina of age and “something of the poetic quality the parents created by their inhabitation of the house”.
Plan and section of renovated house and gardens
The renovation required the replacement of three-quarters of the envelope (the entire roof and all of the asbestos-filled external walls), the integration of new services and the refurbishment of all joinery and furniture, as well as the removal of a later garden studio and internal partitions. The gardens were also refashioned by landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan. It was a painstaking process akin to repairing a watch, says GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi.
The principal bedroom within the main house contains 1930s furniture designed by Richard Rogers’ relative, Ernesto Rogers. Mirrored doors disguise wardrobes and the entrance to the top-lit bathroom.
With the guidance of Paddy Pugh of John McAslan & Partners, Gumuchdjian developed an approach that focused on protecting the character and architectural interest of the building, and not the preservation or like-for-like replacement of historic fabric, as orthodox conservation requires. It is also in keeping with Rogers’ own drive for flexible space within clad and serviced ‘armatures’, whose long-life structural elements support shorter-lived components that are replaced as needs change or technology advances. “It’s almost like Richard created a kind of riff that other architects can play with”, says Gumuchdjian. “The house is now radically different to what it was in 2015, and in the 1970s, and to what it will be in the future”.
‘Opening up’ works revealed the trial-and-error nature of the original construction, and later remedial works – neither of which detract from the building’s quality, says Gumuchdjian. “It was a prototype, not the finished thing; this is the one where the panels failed three times, a real experiment”.
Its faithful renewal was made possible by the support of the GSD, says the architect (“It would have been easy, with any other client, to have lost this building in the process of restoring it”), and of Rogers, who was on hand to advise and encourage. Todd Longstaffe-Gowan recalls the gentle admonition when the reintroduction of an original path was proposed: “Let’s not make the same mistake twice”.
Atelier 10 (competition), Aecom, Northern Ireland (implementation)
Natural acrylic stone