New London Awards 2021 Winner - Mole House
Winner in the DWELLING category
Mole House is a three-storey live-work space, designed as a single-family dwelling for contemporary artist Sue Webster. As an exercise in excavation and retention, it preserves the cultural heritage of the original building — home to the Hackney Mole Man, known for burrowing a network of tunnels beneath the property. The project injects a modern vision founded on an authentic material language and heightened functionality. The re-instated building on triangular plot, is expanded at basement level, offering newly configured open-plan living spaces, each surrounded by sunken landscaped gardens.
Mole House forms part of Hackney’s diverse social history. It stands as a physical memory of William Lyttle’s 40-year long personal archaeology – a process well known to many of the borough’s inhabitants. By preserving and elevating the existing architecture and building stock, it stands as an architectural document to East London’s rich cultural narrative.
The project takes an existing part of society otherwise discarded, to create something that opens, reinstates and celebrates the buildings context and existing texture. The new building places the importance of authenticity, history and meticulous restoration first. Mole house is a key example of collaborative re-adaptation, taking the prospect of working with an extensive archive of historic fabric, to push both the client’s needs and design vision further.
Carefully integrated design decisions and interventions ensure every part of the house is used, providing a quality of space throughout for the client to both work and live comfortably at the same time. Characterised by a flooding of natural light and high ceilings – a skylight and large glass sliding roof also add to the palpable feeling of open airiness inside the house.
The design prioritises resources, recycled materials and energy efficiency strategies. Externally, the original fabric is preserved with 15,000 reclaimed London bricks that supplant areas of excess damage. Daylight enters throughout via reinstated bay windows and inclusion of a skylight, as well as reusing existing apertures which allow for energy-saving strategies and inside insulation tactics. Along with reclaiming original masonry, tunnels and historical context, the structure retains materials like upper floorboards to reduce the buildings overall embodied carbon and environmental impact.
International Jury Quote
The mole house is just exceptional. I wish I could have seen how the site looked before, I imagine it was a mess. The way that all the levels are played with, the mirrored glass with a rough surface and the slab In the centre. I think it’s fantastic.