Hackney Labyrinth Conversion Wins London Architectural Prize
The conversion of the former home of the so-called ‘Hackney Mole Man’ has been named best dwelling in the New London Architecture (NLA) awards.
William Lyttle lived in the ramshackle corner terrace from the 1960s, during which he constructed an elaborate network of underground tunnels and caverns. For almost half a century, Mr Lyttle burrowed beneath the home, tunnelling 26ft underground using a shovel and a pulley system.
Mole House has now been reinvented as the three-storey home and workspace of artist Sue Webster. The design, by architects Adjaye Associates, pays tribute to the property’s history with extended basements and underground spaces and a sunken garden.
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Above ground, however, it is light and spacious, thanks to its high ceilings and sliding glass roof. The building’s conversion reused 15,000 reclaimed Victorian bricks and reinstated the bay windows and upper floorboards.
According to the award judges: “Mole House forms part of Hackney’s diverse social history. It stands as a physical memory of William Lyttle’s 40-year-long personal archaeology – a process well known to many of the borough’s inhabitants. By preserving and elevating the existing architecture and building stock, it stands as an architectural document to East London’s rich cultural narrative.”
The New London Awards celebrate diverse architecture projects, from community-led to large-scale across all 14 categories. The awards ceremony took place on Friday 26 November 2021.
Other commended projects include Islington Square, the winner in the mixed-use category. This re-purposed Royal Mail sorting office behind Upper Street, is a housing and leisure destination, with 260 mixed tenure homes, 108 serviced apartments and 15,800 sqm of retail and service space, including a cinema, theatre, luxury health club and cafes.