Asta House – Reusing the past for new homely future

Make Architects has completed a central London re-use residential project for Derwent London, a leading UK developer known for its distinctive, design-led portfolio that contributes positively to the urban realm of the capital. The Asta House Apartments form a significant part of Derwent London’s latest major mixed-use scheme known as 80 Charlotte Street in London’s Fitzrovia, which comprises commercial offices, luxury and affordable residences, retail and a new pocket park.

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Asta House involves the re-modelling of a 1950s light industrial building which more recently was used as offices. Setting a retrofit benchmark, the project reuses the existing building, adding extra floors. The existing fabric has been significantly upgraded to convert a dated block into a high quality, sustainable mixed-use development.

The building sits on a corner site where Whitfield and Chitty Street meet and has now been transformed by the practice into 36 design-led residences with a mix of 1-3 bedrooms and 10 social apartments and 4 intermediate apartments. Two extra storeys have been added to the original 4 storey building to accommodate a pair of penthouse apartments, adding some 25% to the total available area.

Make’s new top floors have been carefully stepped back to preserve the architectural integrity of Asta House. Make’s sensitive massing of the top level extension respects the conservation area’s neighbouring buildings.Make’s approach has been to retain as much as possible of the original Asta House façade as well as its structure. The design assimilates existing freestanding columns leaving these exposed where appropriate to emphasise the historic character and semi-industrial quality of the building and minimizing repetition within the apartments themselves.

Interior finishes

The interiors of Asta House are pared down yet welcoming in their use of materials and colours. These work well with natural light and are robust and high quality whilst mirroring the gravitas and dignity of the building’s sober external envelope. To create contrast in the interiors, black detailing has been used against a white background and rougher tactile finishes have been juxtaposed with smooth surfaces.

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Functional walls with integrated joinery for storage have been designed as part of the fit-out with wardrobe units that act as wall-like partitions and a series of pocket doors open up or divide the space as necessary. In some apartments, Make have positioned the bathroom as an island with kitchen, wardrobes and storage around its perimeter creating a pod-like effect, beautifully detailed in dark timber veneer.

At Asta House the existing top-lit terrazzo staircase has been meticulously restored and is flanked by Crittall-style windows to draw natural light into the corridors. Make designed a striking full height light for the stairwell with 18 individual pendants that complements the Modernist aesthetic of the space.

External Space and Commercial Space

Access to outdoor space has been an important part of Make’s design both at Asta House. The two penthouses both have extensive private decks and the other apartments in the building share a courtyard terrace backing Charlotte Mews. All residents will also benefit from Poets Park – a 240 square metre pocket park planted with which picks up on the smaller parks and squares hidden between the streets of Fitzrovia. Poets Park will have a small café and will also benefit the occupiers of the commercial element of the project.

Reducing the carbon footprint to the lowest practical level during demolition, construction and occupation has been a key driver. This has been chaieved by retaining as much of the façade and structure as possible as well as including triple glazing and additional insulation, openable windows and a solar hot water heating panels to preheat domestic hot water for the whole building. The apartments have been designed to the Ecohomes standard, achieving an “Excellent” rating.

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Kunwook Kang, Project Architect said: “The modern, yet intimate scale and design of this project aims to appeal to those who want a character-rich home in this bohemian area. Externally the project is completely respectful of its location, chiming with surrounding colours and massing. Internally our choice of materials was key. We’ve created smooth, consistent interiors that make the most of original features and crafted new ones to provide not only functional, efficient homes, but also spaces that delight.”

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The ground and lower ground floors of Asta House were formerly the home of Make Architects for over eight years and have been retained as 1,000m2 of refurbished workplace, now occupied by engineering firm Elliott Wood.

The 80 Charlotte Street project also includes affordable residential located at the eastern corner of the main 80 Charlotte Street block. The Charlotte Apartments comprise 19 homes for private letting.

There are seven apartments remaining at Asta House, a 1 bedroom unit at £1,050,000, 2 bedroom units are priced from £1,675,000 whilst 3 bed apartments start at £2,200,000.

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