Bird in Hand, Hampstead by Patalab Architecture

Modern Hampstead building illustration by Patalab Architecture, showcasing contemporary urban design.

Architecture often begins with understanding and embracing the constraints of a particular brief and site. This proved especially true for the reconfiguration and extension of an existing building in Hampstead, where – given its prominent yet nestled position between Hampstead High Street and Bird in Hand Yard – space was considerably confined. The Bird in Hand, once a local watering hole of Hampstead until it changed hands to The Dome cafe in the early 80’s and later Cafe Rouge, is a five-storey Victorian structure, which included two cramped flats to the upper floors, accessed via an external escape stair to the rear. It has been refurbished and extended to create two two-bedroom flats to the upper floors, offices to the first floor and flexible retail / restaurant spaces to the ground and basement floors.

The constraints informed a spatially economical yet refined approach to all aspects of the design; from the overall structural arrangement to the construction details. Working in close collaboration with structural engineers Michael Hadi Associates, this approach was articulated most elegantly through the evolution of the rear extension design. The resolution of the mezzanine support led to distributing the structural load through a series of reduced, 40mm wide portal frames on which a series of suspension rods delicately poises the mezzanine level within the modest, mono-pitched volume. Inspired by the beautifully considered details of Carlo Scarpa and Japanese Shoji screens, the fine, waxed mild steel structural components are celebrated and expressed through the playful junction details and complementing opaque resin infill panels.

Encouraged by the refined proportions of the rear extension and mezzanine, this 40mm structural motif and materiality was echoed in the detailing of both the residential units and the new, waxed mild steel cantilevered staircase to the common area. Fabricated by Weber Industries and developed using a diverse range of traditional and contemporary design tools, the stair’s helical geometries and steel construction methods were also adopted to negotiate the generous floor to ceiling heights and challenging spatial constraints. The solid balustrade from entrance level elegantly transitions into an open one at first floor level, gradually demarcating the change of occupancy as one ascends from office use to residential on the upper two floors.

The characteristic butterfly roof to the existing building informs the volumetric expression and chamfered brick reveals of the sensitively proportioned rear extension, which compliments the surrounding materiality. Whilst internally, light canons flood the new spaces below with daylight and offer a glimpse to the historical butterfly roof geometry above.

Perhaps both challenging and respecting the synonymous proverb, The Bird in Hand, sustains yet maximises the potential of the existing by embracing its constraints to provide new, inspiring spaces for the centre of Hampstead Village.


Project size490 m2
Site size250 m2
Completion date2021
Building levels5

Project team

Patalab ArchitectureArchitect
Julian AdamsPhotographer


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