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brixton studi0

No Neutral Territory Anne Graupner and Thorsten Deckler’s recently completed studio home in the old suburb of Brixton showcases the beauty and potential of site-specific interventions. P H OTO S D O O K P RO D U C TIO N A N N E M A R I E M E I N TJ E S WOR D S N E C H A M A B R O D I E

This distinctive corner property has a long history of mixed commercial and residential use – it has been used as a corner shop, a cooking school, a church, and for student accommodation.

97


brixton studi0

No Neutral Territory Anne Graupner and Thorsten Deckler’s recently completed studio home in the old suburb of Brixton showcases the beauty and potential of site-specific interventions. P H OTO S D O O K P RO D U C TIO N A N N E M A R I E M E I N TJ E S WOR D S N E C H A M A B R O D I E

This distinctive corner property has a long history of mixed commercial and residential use – it has been used as a corner shop, a cooking school, a church, and for student accommodation.

97


A

nne Graupner and her husband and business partner

Thorsten Deckler had been living in the Johannesburg suburb of Brixton for about six years when the perfect property came on the market: an old stand on the corner of Wimbledon Road whose front section used to be a shop. The couple, whose architectural practice, 26’10 (named after Joburg’s latitudinal position), encountered a common Joburg problem when they applied for a bond on the new property: none of the banks wanted to give them a bond because of its location. They had chosen Brixton for its diversity and “great sense of community”, which suited their family and work needs, and were specifically looking for a place that was central and affordable. “We didn’t want our business to be tied up in over­heads,” Thorsten says. “Joburg is exciting, but if you get sucked into servicing a massive bond, you don’t get to do interesting work.” They also wanted an office that linked to their home, to be close to their small children. The property had “been through a bunch of permutations” – after the shop closed, it was rumoured to have been a church; then a cooking school; after that, the premises were turned into student accommodation. Perceptions of the “marginalised” suburb saw one financial institution reject an application outright. The couple eventually submitted a detailed mapping of 120 properties and homeowners in the area, to convince a bank that Brixton was not a slum, and to give them a develop­ment bond. Estate agents have since said that they struggle to accurately price the property, as there’s nothing comparable in the area. Local residents have told Anne and Thorsten that the beautiful renovation-restoration has given them hope for the suburb’s future. To adapt the property, they knocked out the student room divisions and removed a communal bathroom that had been added on. At the same time, 26’10 South was working with the University of Johannesburg on a project in an informal settlement. “We made our students do an analysis of how much it cost to build a shack,” recalls Thorsten. “They found that almost all the materials used were recycled, not bought. It was an unexpectedly green approach. We applied that principle to our own renovations: why take out walls and pay for the privilege of dumping rubble?” he says. Instead, they recycled as much as possible.

Before building started, the site underwent a comprehensive heritage survey, as the structures were more than 60 years old. “If you understand the history of a place,” says Anne, “you don’t need to rebuild everything, you take clues from history. What we found influenced the design and proportions of the renovation. It’s a dialogue between new and old. It can be challenging, but fun, coming up with unpredictable and unexpected solutions. That is modern architecture.” A series of old sash windows – placed around a part of the house Thorsten believes was once used as a schoolroom – was removed, and repositioned in a row on the south side of the studio, opening the space to the courtyard and the house beyond. “The wood was valuable,” says Anne, “and we also appreciated the fantastic design of the sash apparatus, the natural ventilation.” “People love the courtyard,” Thorsten says. “Although courtyards are almost antiarchitectural, this space holds you.” Anne’s approach to urban design is “very much about the spaces in between – this is not only about architecture, but about spaces and the relationships they build”. A key aspect of 26’10’s approach is engaging with the stories and memories of geographical locations (“no place in the city is neutral”, reads one of their presentations). As such, Wimbledon Road’s connection to the street its on was an important factor. The studio’s large red door opens directly on to the corner, providing a surprising view of a stop sign and passing traffic: pedestrians looking for the local NG Kerk; neighbour­ hood dogs looking for adventure… Anne and Thorsten plan on installing a “nice security gate” so they can leave the red door open while they work. “It’s important to have a connection with the public space,” Thorsten says.

02

• 2610south.co.za

01

 rchitects Anne Graupner and Thorsten A Deckler chose Brixton for its diversity and sense of community

02

The Brixton Tower dominates the skyline, as seen from the courtyard.

01


A

nne Graupner and her husband and business partner

Thorsten Deckler had been living in the Johannesburg suburb of Brixton for about six years when the perfect property came on the market: an old stand on the corner of Wimbledon Road whose front section used to be a shop. The couple, whose architectural practice, 26’10 (named after Joburg’s latitudinal position), encountered a common Joburg problem when they applied for a bond on the new property: none of the banks wanted to give them a bond because of its location. They had chosen Brixton for its diversity and “great sense of community”, which suited their family and work needs, and were specifically looking for a place that was central and affordable. “We didn’t want our business to be tied up in over­heads,” Thorsten says. “Joburg is exciting, but if you get sucked into servicing a massive bond, you don’t get to do interesting work.” They also wanted an office that linked to their home, to be close to their small children. The property had “been through a bunch of permutations” – after the shop closed, it was rumoured to have been a church; then a cooking school; after that, the premises were turned into student accommodation. Perceptions of the “marginalised” suburb saw one financial institution reject an application outright. The couple eventually submitted a detailed mapping of 120 properties and homeowners in the area, to convince a bank that Brixton was not a slum, and to give them a develop­ment bond. Estate agents have since said that they struggle to accurately price the property, as there’s nothing comparable in the area. Local residents have told Anne and Thorsten that the beautiful renovation-restoration has given them hope for the suburb’s future. To adapt the property, they knocked out the student room divisions and removed a communal bathroom that had been added on. At the same time, 26’10 South was working with the University of Johannesburg on a project in an informal settlement. “We made our students do an analysis of how much it cost to build a shack,” recalls Thorsten. “They found that almost all the materials used were recycled, not bought. It was an unexpectedly green approach. We applied that principle to our own renovations: why take out walls and pay for the privilege of dumping rubble?” he says. Instead, they recycled as much as possible.

Before building started, the site underwent a comprehensive heritage survey, as the structures were more than 60 years old. “If you understand the history of a place,” says Anne, “you don’t need to rebuild everything, you take clues from history. What we found influenced the design and proportions of the renovation. It’s a dialogue between new and old. It can be challenging, but fun, coming up with unpredictable and unexpected solutions. That is modern architecture.” A series of old sash windows – placed around a part of the house Thorsten believes was once used as a schoolroom – was removed, and repositioned in a row on the south side of the studio, opening the space to the courtyard and the house beyond. “The wood was valuable,” says Anne, “and we also appreciated the fantastic design of the sash apparatus, the natural ventilation.” “People love the courtyard,” Thorsten says. “Although courtyards are almost antiarchitectural, this space holds you.” Anne’s approach to urban design is “very much about the spaces in between – this is not only about architecture, but about spaces and the relationships they build”. A key aspect of 26’10’s approach is engaging with the stories and memories of geographical locations (“no place in the city is neutral”, reads one of their presentations). As such, Wimbledon Road’s connection to the street its on was an important factor. The studio’s large red door opens directly on to the corner, providing a surprising view of a stop sign and passing traffic: pedestrians looking for the local NG Kerk; neighbour­ hood dogs looking for adventure… Anne and Thorsten plan on installing a “nice security gate” so they can leave the red door open while they work. “It’s important to have a connection with the public space,” Thorsten says.

02

• 2610south.co.za

01

 rchitects Anne Graupner and Thorsten A Deckler chose Brixton for its diversity and sense of community

02

The Brixton Tower dominates the skyline, as seen from the courtyard.

01


brixton studi0

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brixton studi0

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PREVIOUS SPREAD 01

 small mezzanine area provides A storage solutions without intruding on work space.

02

F ixtures and fittings are kept simple: desks are made from doors placed into metal frames, while room dividers comprise metal and plywood panels.

THIS SPREAD 01

 meeting area opens directly onto A the street, with the office partially screened off.

02

The corrugated-metal cladding echoes the heritage building on the neighbouring property.

03 & 04 The boardroom opens on to

the courtyard, offering space for screening films or presentations. The sliding wooden doors are made from repurposed shutters.

01 02

03

“although courtyards are almost anti-architectural, this space holds you.� 04


PREVIOUS SPREAD 01

 small mezzanine area provides A storage solutions without intruding on work space.

02

F ixtures and fittings are kept simple: desks are made from doors placed into metal frames, while room dividers comprise metal and plywood panels.

THIS SPREAD 01

 meeting area opens directly onto A the street, with the office partially screened off.

02

The corrugated-metal cladding echoes the heritage building on the neighbouring property.

03 & 04 The boardroom opens on to

the courtyard, offering space for screening films or presentations. The sliding wooden doors are made from repurposed shutters.

01 02

03

“although courtyards are almost anti-architectural, this space holds you.� 04

26'10 south Architects, Visi, June, 2013  

26'10 south Architects, Visi, June, 2013

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