The Light Shed in East London

When architect Richard John Andrews (RJA) decided to start his own practice, one of his first jobs was to design and fabricate a low-cost bespoke studio space for the business in East London. With the studio being positioned at the end of a mid-terraced east London garden there were certain constraints that required thorough attention. The material palette was kept light weight and simple in order to enable full on-site fabrication as well as easy transfer through a recently finished house renovation and extension, ‘the cork house’. 

The studio aims to create a sustainable approach to work and play, with the flexibility of flipping its function to become an entertaining space for summer gatherings and more intimate functions. The light shed offers desk space for two to three people and has the ability for its inhabitants to fluctuate depending on the tasks at hand.

Architecturally the studio has been constructed as a self-build project using cheap and hard-wearing materials, although these have been finessed to create an elegant and cosy workspace measuring in at 12sqm internally.

Bespoke timber sliding doors connect the space to the sounds and vibrancy of a well-kept garden and diffused polycarbonate roofing panels give the studio its name, ‘the light shed’ due to the ambient light that is created. These design details create a perfect environment for the use of computers, model making equipment and presentations on its designated studio display screen.

The materials were also researched and chosen based on the specific environment offered by that position in the garden. With the garden being south facing the approach was to block out any direct sunlight through the east, south and west walls to the studio. This was achieved by a timber frame modular system constructed using full sheets of plywood and clad in black lightweight corrugated fibreglass panels. These components had to be prefabricated on the ground and lifted into place, again calculated to the weight which was feasible for only two people to lift into place.  

The project has been a refreshing reminder of what can be achieved when scale and budget are limited. By adopting hardwearing, malleable materials RJA has reaffirmed the possibility of employing a maker’s approach to small scale architectural endeavours; resulting in well designed, thoroughly thought out and beautifully crafted small spaces that are more accessible to a wider audience.

For the studio the opal polycarbonate roof was a design breakthrough due to its duel function. The primary function was to create a well-lit space using diffuse natural light in order to operate the required equipment within, as well as provide a healthy and uplifting connection to nature. By its design the polycarbonate heats up in the sun and offers an attractive resting surface for aphids which bloom on the over-bearing sycamore tree above. This coupled with the sycamore’s excessive sap helps retain the aphids which in turn provides a rich buffet for local small birds such as blue tits which move within the protected canopy of the tree. 

With current trends showing peoples’ willingness to explore alternatives to creating additional space as a means of maximising their home-life, ‘the light shed’ offers a superior solution to the common garden shed or summer house at a similar cost. 

Photography by Chris Snook.

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