(Photo: Lyndon Douglas)
Elektra House, 84a Ashfield Street, Whitechapel, London
Architect: David Adjaye
Elektra House, completed in 2001, helped put British architect David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates on the cultural map. Designed as a home and studio for artists Elizabeth Wright and Giorgio Sadotti, the inexpensive three-bedroom structure is arrestingly moody, its windowless primary façade — a collage of resin-impregnated, timber-composite panels the color of rust — lending a dramatically thuggish presence to a modest neighborhood best known as the haunt of Jack the Ripper.
The impassive envelope created by Adjayen is exceptionally sensitive to its urban context, however. Its scale, for instance, mirrors the surrounding 18th- and 19th-century architecture, the panels correspond in size and placement to neighboring windows, and the ruddy pigmentation echoes the redbrick exterior of a row of townhouses that stands opposite.
These decisions ensure that the Wright-Sadotti residence is deferential yet galvanizing. And though the blank appearance of Elektra House seems to eschew contact with the outside world, its interiors are suffused with natural light; skylights illuminate the bedrooms, and the south elevation is made almost entirely of glass.