LONDON – The English capital can be an exciting and bustling hub of activity but, just outside the central cocoon of Greater London, opportunities can be slightly more lacking. Hackney-based firm Eastwest Architecture was approached by a client who found the gym facilities in Walthamstow – a 20-minute tube ride on the northeast-bound Victoria Line – to be limited and so a private exercise zone was commissioned.
The Garden Studio Gym is the firm’s abstract twist on the traditional garden shed. However, in comparison to the jumbled mess that is usually found past the hedgerows, the gym is a quiet, single-occupancy space for private escape – and intense exercise. The key to the success of the project was excavation. ‘The restrictions were quite demanding and we had a small footprint within the garden,’ the architect comments. ‘The permitted development only allowed a roof height of 2.5 m to the external finish. To get around this, we lowered the ground floor level, as there is no local or national policy on digging downwards. Now, there is plenty of height for skipping and jumping.’
Internally, birch-ply panels create a warm and light atmosphere – complemented by a full-height mirror on the main wall and a black rubber floor – for tranquil activities like yoga. On the other hand, the facility also contains a punching bag for a more extreme workout to relieve the stress of travelling on the London Underground. The burnt-cedar cladding of the external volume resembles a well-weathered garden shed that has braved the elements for generations.
All in all, the project is a collection of basics that comes together to create a well-detailed and carefully considered micro-space for when there is nowhere else in the busy city to go. ‘The subtle aesthetic was based on using materials which are rich in quality and speak for themselves, making a clear division between the internal and external envelope,’ the architect explains. ‘The form of the “shed” is part of our recurring theme for a contemporary vernacular. This design language uses recognisable urban forms within the context of the city but strips back all the details that may usually occur in traditional building.’