Ullmayer Sylvester Architects: three rooms under a new roof

Architecture / 19 Mar 2020

Raising the canopy of a crafted timber home to grow alongside an extending family tree – Ullmayer Sylvester Architects Ltd.’s project, Three Rooms Under a New Roof, has won the Environmental Leadership Prize in the NLA’s Don’t Move, Improve! 2020 awards.


‘Three rooms’ transforms a small, self-build, timber frame terraced house for a couple, into a four-person home/office. Open plan was no longer suitable for the new-found jubilant chaos of both raising children and working from home, therefore the beloved space was redesigned to adapt for teenagers. Through retaining the fundamental concept of verticality and the sensation of looking up at the sky, new ‘canopies’ were interpreted and designed from below. An inventive, unusual construction language evolved from birch ply, stressed-skin technology and traditional timber construction, coinciding to create three new rooms under a new roof.

Linking the three levels required coupling a new set of stairs with the relocated, bespoke steel staircase. By allowing light to flood through, the helical circulation acts as a joyfully economical transition between all floors and maximises the dimensions of the main social space, ensuring gatherings around cooking and the family dining table. Theatrically linked, this space can be spectated with playful openings in the girls’ new bedrooms, looking down onto the everyday ballet and out towards the vegetation that has grown symbiotically around the back-land yard over 15 years.

This connection to nature is echoed in its thorough sustainability strategy; minimising impact through means of an extensive circular retrofit, post occupancy energy monitoring and a palette of 100% responsibly sourced timber. The new lattice roof not only contributes spatially but enables a stack effect from the double height space and passively ventilates the home, showing a consciousness for the buildings on-going carbon consumption.

Three Rooms under a New Roof impressed the judges and is a good example of environmentally conscious design. They admired the refreshing approach which reused the materials and furniture to adapt to the changing needs of the family in this large, simple volume.

About DMI

Don’t Move, Improve! is a competition hosted by New London Architecture (NLA) – an independent forum for discussion, debate and information about architecture and construction in the capital – celebrating London’s best and most innovative home extensions and improvements.

Photography: Agnes Elvin

Image courtesy of NLA

Ullmayer Sylvester Architects

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