The widespread construction of basements in 18th and 19th century London was discussed by John Summerson in his book on Georgian London. The earth from the basement was used to raise the level of the road, leaving a short flight of steps to the front door. The back garden, however, remained at its natural level but was not accessible from the reception rooms on the floor above. The reconfiguration of the Swarovski house addresses this issue by placing a living space at basement level, which, due to its height, has a spatial connection with the front door.

Unusually, the two-storey basement space acknowledges each of the key levels resulting from the remodelling of the ground before the first construction began. With its exceptional height, boarded surfaces, and the balcony and window on the inside wall, this could be an external space. It is unclear whether we should understand the house as an extension of the garden, or the garden as an extension of the house.

Inside, the staircase forms a vertical element running through all floors and spatial interaction with the spaces it serves is limited, as in the case of the main staircase in the Ofili house. In the Swarovski house, the position, containment and orientation of the staircase is different at every level and its detailing is intimately connected with each of the spaces it serves. It forms a vertical promenade architecturale, connecting the basement to the roof. 

Swarovski House

London, 2001
Project Description