Undercurrent Architects

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Arch within Arch , UK

Area : Cities throughout UK

Year : 2013 – 2016


In 2013, Undercurrent Architects won ‘House of the Year’ at the New London Architecture Awards for a house below a live train line.

This was due in part to the extreme environmental and technical challenges the project overcame, and in part as an exemplar – opening vast swathes of previously un-developable inner city land (with over 10,000 arches in London alone).

Subsequently, we have worked on developing a universal solution: a telescopic Arch-within-Arch. (GB1610384.8) This provides a template for transforming the toughest of site conditions – noisy, vibrating, wet, dark, and poorly ventilated railway arches – into viable and attractive buildings.

Technical challenges include managing noise from overhead railway lines less than 2 metres away – in addition to vibration generated by 265 tonne trains passing frequently overhead. As a result, specialised acoustic insulation has been developed using straw and rubber, and combines with vibration cushions to float the entire building off the ground.

To naturally illuminate the dark, cavernous arches, solar reflective foils align with solar paths to collect, bounce and amplify daylight. This is combined with asymmetric glazing to maximise the amount of daylight captured, while still achieving superior acoustic performance.

To address a legal requirement that restricts fixtures within the arch, a mobile, telescopic shell structure has been developed, and is designed to transform during periodic servicing. As the structures must be capable of being moved, they must be lightweight, and this has led to the unusual use of lightweight construction for acoustic dampening, and the innovative combination of straw and rubber to achieve desired noise proofing with low mass materials.

Arch-within-arch is a telescopic, mobile building system for inhabitable infrastructure.





Undercurrent_architects_telescopic plan


Undercurrent_architects_Arch cutaway





Undercurrent_architects_Railway map



Project Team:

Undercurrent Architects : Didier Ryan, Tao Gatto, Yoko Chang

Munro Acoustics : Phil Pyatt





Archway studios

Policy context

Design footnotes



On-site construction

Acoustic construction

Archway Studios by Philip Sinden