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The Lovely Bones: Modern Minimalism in the UK

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The Lovely Bones: Modern Minimalism in the UK

May 16, 2013

The term “good bones” is often used to describe a building with intrinsic structural beauty that has been obscured by bad renovations or fallen into a state of disrepair. Restoring these faded gems to their former glory is an art. One that has been mastered by London-based firm 6a Architects.

Ever since they founded 6a Architects in 2001, Tom Emerson and Stephanie Macdonald have developed a reputation for award-winning contemporary projects set within “sensitive historic environments.” Their trademark style involves stripping old buildings of all extraneous detail in an effort to expose the timeless elegance of the structure–”bones” such as a graceful arch, a paneled wall, or a dramatic enfilade. Then, at the same time, any modern updates they make are so congruous that they appear less as “additions” and more as seamless “evolutions” of the original space.

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Above: Built around 1690, the buildings at Raven Row, a contemporary art space in the Spitalfields area, experienced subsequent renovations in the Rococo (1750) and Regency (1827) styles. Here, 6a Architects transformed a mishmash of 18th century rooms into elegant flats for curators and visiting artists.

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Above: Raven Row received a RIBA Award and was the only UK project selected by the Design Museum for the Brit Insurance Design Award.

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Above: The “before” pictures of Raven Row reveal a space overwhelmed with ornamentation. With a simple application of subtle gray and white paint, 6a highlighted the Rocco details and at the same time minimized their competition with other striking architectural features.

George Romney Studio, 6a Architects

Above: Recently completed, the Romney House was built in 1789 as a residence and painting studio for Georgian portrait painter George Romney. With the addition of a gracefully curving partition that maintains the original sense of volume, the architects converted a large assembly room into two bedrooms.

George Romney Studio stairs, 6a Architects

Above: After Romney’s death, his home suffered from a series of bad renovations. Returning the house to a single-family dwelling, 6a knit together the various levels with a dramatic winding staircase, which runs from basement to roof, where a newly added tower takes in the surrounding view from Hampstead. 

George Romney Studio detail, 6a Architects

Above: Details of the Romney House demonstrate 6a’s talent for blending the old and the new.

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Above: The new South London Gallery won the New London Architecture Award 2011 and the Civic Trust Award Commendation 2012.

baths by 6a architects

Above: A seamless incorporation of modern minimalism with historic elements, the bathrooms in the South London Gallery and LC House, exemplify 6a’s signature style.

N.B. Want more modern minimal grandeur? Take a tour of Vincent Van Duysen’s absurdly compelling contemporary residence.

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