It is nearly 30 years since I was at the Royal College of Art and began painting for Zaha Hadid (she had just won the Hong Kong peak hotel competition) and 20 years since I started my own practise.
Moving to Shropshire in 1995 has both allowed more time to spend on my own paintings and sculpture as well as many visits to the Pembrokeshire coast and Snowdonia mountains and trips abroad to the Pyrenees, Sulawesi etc, which have stimulated my own artwork and my fascination with the ‘space between’. Researching this article I can look back and see something in nearly all of my paintings and scupture that does connect my own architecture and this ‘space between’.
I have always had an interest in the space between both buildings and the functional spaces (rooms; derived from the German word ‘Raum’ meaning space but with the connection of expansion), which form the ‘brief’ side of architectural design.
The flow of both space and people between buildings and rooms is akin to the passage of water between the rocks by the sea or the rain on the mountains. The relentless movement of the sea against the rocks washes away the weaker veins to form caverns, channels and fissures. Fallen rocks mix with others of different shape, size and colour and new spaces are constantly created between them.
I dislike the idea of ‘corridors’ in buildings and try instead to create usable spaces themselves offering much more than just connection. These are pausing places, presenting views into other spaces, glimpses that present the chance of an assessment of the direction of movement. Ultimately about movement they allow pauses and eddies before the flow is continued.
House construction in the UK has become incredibly regimented and conformed; box housing sold according to the number of rooms, regulation width corridors and priced down to the exact number of bricks used. If we look at how houses used to be constructed, particularly in old towns and villages, we see how they were built up to boundaries and against other houses; angled, asymmetric, dependent on local materials and conditions, built by local builders and seldom identical.
The houses that I am interested in designing and building, whilst heeding the clients brief and addressing sustainability (particularly orientation for passive solar gain), hopefully respond to and respect their location and site potential - including sloping sites where the main living areas are fragmented into two parts allowing a flow through them.
The School House project within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park won the LABC sustainability award 2012. It shows that even north extensions can be articulated to get some southern light for passive solar gain: pushing the extension to the west so that it cantilevers over the stone boundary wall, a large panel of glass (which separates it from the main refurbished house) allows the light to penetrate and warm the new rooms. Solar hot water panels and solar voltaic panels are fitted on the main roof and a ground source heat pump is installed for top up and heating (under-floor to ground floor and low temperature radiators to first floor). A new timber framed workshop to the north has a brown / biodiverse roof. A small section of the old house was removed where the extension attaches. This stone was broken up to form the roof cover with coastal cliff plants such as thrift and stonecrop.
- Orchard House is legible on arrival as an orchard wall with very minimal slot windows and entrance. On entering the visitor slowly realises that the house is not single storey but two, folding down onto a meadow and river. A fine balance is played between the large windows facing south for passive solar gain and the restriction of light and excessive heat in the summer. The same can be said for views internally and into the garden and beyond, starting off with snippets and introductions and culminating in large sheets of glazing and vista from the sunroom.
The first floor cantilevers into the sunroom space and the external finish materials wrap around into the house blurring the relationship between internal and external spaces. The external terraces continue with this blurring of the functional rooms and the flow space between. The staircase and double height slot segment the house with the brick wrapping round the staircase as a heat sink.
The Bircher Common project is less buried in the hillside and more fragmented, allowing a view through from the rear elevated garden down into the valley. Separation is emphasised by the change of external finish material and roof orientation, while the division has been partly displaced by the floor plate cantilevering at first floor and the curved rendered wall at low level. The staircase, walkway and first floor void play a key element within this sculptural connective space.
Environmental and Architural Design — EAD Studio4
Illustrations for Zaha Hadid projects to show her development based on deconstruction principles but these days far more sinuous.