Comet Street Studio

dRMM were commissioned by an artist to build a studio on a backstreet in Deptford, a site that was then being used as a scaffolders’ yard. His brief was a simple room to paint in, free of distractions, that only let light enter from the north – indirect light giving cool continuity of light when painting in oils. The site was located within a small mixed-residential and commercial street behind Deptford High Street. It is is an end-of-terrace plot within a service yard off Comet Street, which had been previously leased out for storage. Rubbish was habitually dumped around the site before the studio was built; it was merely a concrete slab, void of any trees or features.

Our proposal was a simple, north-lit single-volume the form and materiality of which aimed to improve the character of the street without compromising its continuity. The studio does not mimic the adjacent houses, but is designed to be of similar scale and to complement the existing buildings.

The client required indirect light and controllable natural ventilation with complete obliteration of shadows or glare. Our response was a wedge-shaped box built in cross-laminated timber with light entering through a huge openable ETFE skylight. This single window, at 4x5metres the largest of its kind in the UK, was positioned to act like a big hungry eye, sucking in light from the northern sky. The building is clad in zinc, its seams wrapping around each corner. The net effect of only one door and one enigmatic skylight is both compelling and forbidding from the outside.

A small yard has been placed at the rear of the building to the south to enable the off-street loading to take place with minimal disturbance. The yard has been placed to the south to ensure that sunshine can diffuse through a translucent rollershutter to the service area behind the studio. The design of the building seeks to perform the function of a studio as sustainably as possible. Solar collectors on the roof provide an environmentally-friendly source of hot water, and in winter a clean-coal burning stove supplements this. The studio is a car-free development and includes provision for bicycle storage. Throughout a long design development period we worked to the exacting specifications of the client, with whom we collaborated on every detail, from the pigmentless epoxy scree resin floor to the special eyewash station that takes the place of a sink. We learned that achieving true simplicity is not necessarily quick or easy, but it is entirely satisfying“.


Drawings © dRMM Architects


Photo © Alex de Rijke



Photo © Judith Stichtenoth



Photo © Alex de Rijke