The house occupies an intriguing long and relatively narrow site in Chelsea, which begins at the main street beneath an apartment building, continues between tall windowless walls and ends at another street behind, a small paved court of houses. For our Clients, Anish and Susanne Kapoor and their family, the attraction of the site was its capacity to give a long continuous space on the ground floor for living, entertaining and displaying art. In our design this came into being as a series of places of different characters, arranged around sources of light and outlook and connected by shifting lines of sight and continuities of detail.
At the street the entrance to the house and the garage are placed on either side of the existing entrance foyer to the apartment building. Diffused daylight comes into the entrance hall through etched glass windows to the street. There is an enormous cupboard for coats and shoes, space for a couch or bench and artworks and stair leading downwards to guest bedroom, playroom and spa in the basement.
The floor is of Hopton Wood stone, honey coloured and the stuff of classic modernist sculpture, which continues beyond the hall into the living areas. Two discontinuous lines of Mandale stone, grey in colour and containing fossils, run longwise in the floor. A long illuminated recess in the ceiling continues the composition, and both ceiling and floor slope gently downwards through a glass door leading to the rest of the house.
Beyond the door the entrance route is compressed by a glazed open-air star-shaped courtyard and stone stair rising to the first floor above. The last part of the entrance floor level is a dining space, with a rectangle of Mandale in its floor. Above the dining area is a large roof light, illuminates the depth of the ground floor with natural light, reflecting off the polished stainless steel metalwork of the courtyard and stair balustrade.
At that point the living room comes into view, a few steps down from the entrance level, tall and extensive. In the zone created on one long wall beyond the stair is a fireplace. The end wall is glazed offering views into a courtyard garden. To the left is a door leading to a glazed corridor alongside it, which is filled with a bookcase the same size as the cupboard in the entrance, making a library space on route to the master bedroom.
Stairs in the corridor take the level of the bedroom up above the garden, so that it looks and opens out as a pavilion. Below it is a dressing room lit by clerestory windows to the garden and lined with reflective surfaces, and a bathroom lined in marble.
The first floor of the house is arranged in three sections. In the centre at the top of the stair from the living room, is a courtyard with a glass floor that constitutes the roof light above the dining room below. To one side a library opens up, and on the other are the children’s rooms, which look away from the courtyard over the garden and neighbourhood at the back of the site.
The house is a magical interior, a place with little presence in the surrounding streets, and therefore only part of the city through the experience of those invited to enter; a contemporary, invented space in which images from today are mixed with fleeting images of classical China and 18 th century England.
A series of forms are disposed through the house and connected associatively by use and appearance. Unlike sculpture that is seen in special circumstances for a relatively short time and then not again for a long time, architecture is seen all of the time. Therefore it must have the capacity to act sometimes as a background to the events of people’s lives, and at other times as a series of objects that give aesthetic and formal pleasure.