Murray Mews consists of three houses, each on a very small plot. Skilful interpretation of building and planning regulations resulted in a design which made the maximum effective use of the sites by locating the houses directly on the front boundary, leaving a private courtyard to the rear, and preserving the visual integrity of the mews as a street. The internal planning of each house responded to particular needs of the occupants, a doctor with a strong interest in art, a husband and wife who were both barristers, and a skilled trade craftsman. The introduction of top light and a concern for individual privacy were strong elements of the design.

The street door opens straight into the kitchen which is raised a few steps to look over a worktop and built-in concrete table to the living room and a glazed wall with the courtyard beyond. The glass wall of the living room, like that of the kitchen-dining room at Creek Vean, is placed a metre or so forward of where the ceiling ends, so that more day-lit space is created. Standing in the kitchen, one is aware of bright top-lighting, then of a band of dimmer, intimate space in the living room, and then again of a band of brighter space along the window wall.

At an angle parallel to the sloping, glazed roof in the double-height kitchen, an open staircase runs up to the bathroom and bedrooms, with a few more steps leading up to a long top-lit picture gallery. From the balcony wall of this space one can look down into the kitchen as if from a minstrel gallery.

Courtyard, living room, kitchen and glazed 'attic' are thus related in a continuous spatial liaison; only the bedrooms and bathroom in the U-shaped middle level of the house are enclosed and separate. It is as if the mediaeval English 'Great Hall' has been miniaturised and centred on the kitchen.

Sketches + Drawings

Development

Quotes

Norman Foster

“This was a tiny pocket-handkerchief site, so to optimise the very tight area available the building came right up to the public pavement with a minimal courtyard tucked behind.”

‘Delight in Design’ lecture at UAE, Norwich, 27 November 1978

Brian Hatton

“Courtyard, living room, kitchen and glazed ‘attic’ are related in a continuous spatial liaison; only the bedrooms and bathroom in the U-shaped middle level of the house are enclosed. It is as though the medieval English ‘Great Hall’ has been miniaturised and centred around the kitchen.”

Norman Foster

“The internal planning of each house responded to the particular needs of the occupants, a doctor with a strong interest in art, a husband and wife who were both barristers, and a skilled trade craftsman. The introduction of top-light and a concern for individual privacy were the major elements of the design.”

Foster Associates, 1979

Facts + Figures

  • Appointment: 1963
  • Completion: 1966