Sun Rain Rooms
In order to make the most of their narrow Georgian townhouse and garden, architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu decided to remodel their home and the practice's offices and create a space that could be enjoyed whatever the weather (or as they put it "a good place to be on a bad day"), hence the name.
Sun Rain Rooms plays with natural light, space and water to create a truly unique (and utterly gorgeous) new studio space, which was constructed by the architects with the help of local artisans.
Working on a Grade II listed building constrained what Tonkin and Liu could do with their design in terms of the original building, so they decided on a light, minimal extension with features that completely differentiate the new studio space from the existing family home.
The form of the new extension was also challenging – sinuous, naturalistic curves were incorporated into many of the dividing walls, posing challenges both in terms of design and construction of the space.
The aim with this project was to foster a sense of connection between inside and outside, in all weathers. The curve of the roof is actually mapped onto the movement of the sun throughout the day to increase the space’s exposure to natural light in a playful, innovative way.
The green roof and an ingenious rainwater drainage system add to the sylvan feel of the space. Rainwater is collected from the slate roof of the main house and led through a series of pipes before cascading over the edge of the green roof, mimicking the feel of an enchanted woodland waterfall and turning even the dreariest day into an exuberant celebration of the beautiful interplay between light and water.
The main glazing feature in Sun Rain Rooms is the curved, frameless screen that encloses the new studio space. Curved and sloped to match the curvature and pitch of the green roof, the screen is made of low-iron glass to maximise light transference and ensure the reflections from the water are as clear as possible.
To ensure the bedroom in the basement received a healthy dose of natural light, the staircase above the small courtyard just outside the bedroom was made of glass. The glass was frosted to allow a measure of privacy while transmitting plenty of sunlight.
PureGlaze and Sky-Frame doors cap the glass walls with elegant, frameless finishes, in-keeping with the minimal effect of the surrounding glass walls.
This project is a truly stunning example of Tonkin and Liu’s unique approach to design, incorporating natural themes of light, water and space into a tight, challenging site. Of course, we would say that, but the accolades this project received bear this out, as the project was featured in The Guardian, AJ, Dezeen and many more, picking up four awards along the way (winning the BD House Architect Award in 2019, Don’t Move, Improve! First Prize in 2018, and the RIBA London and AJ Retrofit Awards in 2017).
Photography by Edmund Sumner.