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How Edgley Design went from architect to developer at Godson Street

Jake Edgley has teamed up with two neighbours to create a mixeduse building that is a modern reworking of a Georgian terrace, says Laura Mark

Godson Street is a quiet pedestrianised road in Angel, and despite being in Islington’s prime residential area, the plot – previously a storage yard for nearby Chapel Market – had sat unused and derelict for years. But Edgley Design founder Jake Edgley knew the site well, having built a house for himself on an adjoining plot a few years before. He teamed up with two of his neighbours to create three companies that would form a community joint venture to develop the backlands site. Edgley now owns units 13, director of Spaced Out Architecture James Engel owns the fourth unit, and a partnership between two brothers Chris and Steve Joannou owns units five and six. It’s a growing model – a progression of the architect as developer – and one we can expect to see more of. But it’s risky. It relies on teamwork and tight budget management, especially when in this case there were effectively three clients involved who are also the designers and – in the case of the two architect’s practices – are set to become the tenants and the landlords. Fortunately, the project is a showcase of teamwork. The collaborative approach was carried through from the initial client to the construction. The Joannou brothers even carried out all the groundworks, excavating and underpinning the whole site, while the main contractors took on many of the elements of the build in order to derisk and negate the need for expensive subcontractors. This could have in fact had the opposite effect of adding risk since they had very little experience of insitu cast concrete. But they were willing to learn, and the architects worked with them, adopting an agreement not to condemn works that were not perfect but to use them as a learning project. This took patience but it has paid off. They have learned new skills, and the finishes of the walls and polished concrete floors aren’t bad either. contuined below

Client’s view

My family have lived and worked in the area of Penton Street/Chapel Market, Islington, since 1961 when my father ran a grocery shop which we lived above. In the 60s and 70s I remember the area was made up of small sweatshops servicing the rag trade, and light industrial units producing lowcost products such as furniture, records, paints and shoes. Most of the employees lived locally; in fact most properties were livein and workplaces, with very highdensity occupancy. We have always worked with the local community to improve and regenerate the area, developing 42, 44, 4856 and most of the shop fronts on Penton Street, while keeping the social dynamics of the area a mix of residential/commercial workspaces. Then the opportunity came for a communityled development on Godson Street, directly behind Penton St, with Jake Edgley, James Engel and artist Andie Scott. The site was unused and derelict, with the pedestrianised street itself a magnet for antisocial behaviour. As local residents and developers, we saw the opportunity to personally regenerate the site for the collective good of the community, with a mixeduse development inherent to the area. The six buildings we have made have a fantastic, dynamic architectural look, whose scale and quality complement and enhance the local area. Our architect Ben Kirk and contractor worked tirelessly together to create a beautiful, crafted and timeless piece of architecture. It is already the biggest talking point in the area, and has regenerated the street so much more than we could have hoped.

Chris Joannou, JJCS


From above

It’s the largest development Edgley has built as architectdeveloper, featuring a single house alongside five mixeduse plots, which follow the common typology of commercial unit below and apartment above. It would have been six similar units but windows on the neighbouring property meant the height of the building had to be dropped at the end, and since there was not enough height for an office and a flat, planners agreed to a threestorey townhouse. The design is effectively a modern reworking of a Georgian terrace. At the front a retaining wall was kept and new dividing walls added to act as buttresses and form courtyards and lightwells providing light into the lower commercial levels. Above, the living spaces are articulated within the zincclad sculptural form that folds out from the concrete below. The commercial units are pared back with raw finishes on show, while in the residential apartments, bespoke detailing and timber joinery features create crafted spaces. The architect’s hand has touched everything from the raw steel staircase in the house to the birch plywood and Valchromat cabinets in the apartment’s kitchen and living rooms. All the living spaces, including the house, feature an upside down arrangement with bedrooms on the lower floors and living spaces above. On such a tight site, overlooking was a key factor. Windows have been angled to look down the street rather than directly across into offices, apartments and surrounding homes. It was effectively the rights of light lines that created the angled facades of the upper storeys. Light has also been cleverly used within, and a unique upsidedown use of solar mesh has meant privacy can be maintained without the loss of views. The project has transformed not just the site but also the forgotten back street it inhabits. Across the narrow pedestrianised street is a faceless office building which gives little back to the street. ‘This is what we wanted to avoid,’ says Edgley. They have managed to do so – the small scale of the mewslike development makes it personable, while the glazed fronts of the commercial developments at the ground and basement levels provide some animation. What was once a space that encouraged antisocial behaviour with little passive surveillance from its residents is now an open and friendly street full of community interaction.