• Basement Conversion, Don’t Move: Dig Down

    Shape Architecture is a chartered architectural practice expert in the design and construction of basement extensions, conversions, and excavations.

    This a wonderful way to add a great deal of additional space to your property, a variety of rooms of all types and sizes, and to create a much improved connection between the garden and the interior.

    Basement projects offer much potential to transform a home, but do present key design and technical challenges. Filling a basement with light and creating a sense of openness demands a level of expertise and experience of the architect and other consultants, as do the technical challenges associated with excavating below an existing building and the construction of a basement in that space – basement tanking, or waterproofing, for example. Shape Architecture has built many basement projects in London as a company and has explored many different design solutions as a result. We can quickly refer to a library of photographs and visualisations when discussing design issues, arrange visits to previous projects, and illustrate design options through a library of floor plans. Key to this process is that each design is different as it reflects the priorities and lifestyle of the client. As our design develops we employ computer models, which allow us to most clearly demonstrate and explore a design in our role as basement architects in London. The importance of light, space and transparency are very important in basement conversions, as is the connection between the inside and outside.

    The inclusion of light wells, designed around the use of glass, provide a sense of light and transparency and are key in providing a light filled basement. At ground floor level they help to link the kitchen dining space with the garden beyond through the use of large sliding folding doors that often give out onto glazed platforms that move over the garden light well and into the garden itself.
    It is these garden light wells, set between clear crisp glazing and planting, that perhaps most characterise these residential basement construction projects.

    A smaller light well set midway through the building can also have a big impact on premier basement conversions. Here, light and views are brought down into the heart of the basement. This can then allow a room such as a study to open up onto the light well. Often, the light well is set at the interface of the front reception rooms onto the kitchen. This allows the connection between the two to be made via a part or fully glazed enclosure.

    Other devices can be employed at the midpoint to bring light into the heart of a basement extension. In the past we have often set a feature stair below a large format roof light that not only lets a great deal of daylight flood down through the light well, but also allows dramatic views from the basement right through to the sky above.

    Typically, a light well set in the front garden allows the basement rooms below to open up glazed doors onto a small courtyard space.

    A series of smaller spaces can often occupy the centre of a basement plan. These include utility rooms, wine stores, gyms, WC, and often the base of any internal staircases that are acting as light wells and drawing light down into the extension.

    Often, below the garden and opening up onto the garden light well, is a further space that is used as either a studio or an office with large glazed doors. This helps extend the interior view along the whole basement level, and allows for a further sense of space in the basement room on the opposite side of the light well. The addition of steps up from the basement to the garden through this light well can then only improve the feeling of being connected to the whole property, as well as creating a centrepiece point of interest from both directions.
    The composition of these elements in the rear light well exemplify the sense of light, space and transparency that good basement design should achieve. Glass bridges bounce light onto the balustrades of external stairs, light is allowed to permeate the entire basement extension, and the whole property will benefit from the increase in connected spaces.

    At Shape Architecture, we also have experience successfully obtaining planning permission in Kensington and Chelsea for double basements, some with the option for a swimming pool on the lower of these two basement storeys. These are larger projects, and are subject to more demands on our expertise and experience, but are a great addition to any property when the construction work is complete. We do basement extensions all over London, including Fulham and Westminster, but it is in Kensington and Chelsea in particular that the planning laws may soon be changing to forbid double basements in the future as well as making other basements more difficult to gain permission for. We therefore anticipate a rise in the demand for basement architects in London, specifically for companies like ourselves with expertise in these developments.

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