Unbuilt Architectural Projects
Every Architect has them.
A few weeks back I went to the Dundee Art College Degree Show Preview. I graduated from the Art College myself in 2004 and, despite often meaning to, I had not been back to the degree show since then. Given that I moved to Fife last year and now live within 30 minutes drive of the place, I had no excuse this time.
Back To School.
I was struck by the optimism of the show, particularly in the Architecture school. I had expected the recession to have knocked the stuffing out of the place but far from it. According to an old tutor of mine, this year has seen a dramatic increase in Scottish Architecture practices inquiring about graduates. With a view to offering them paid employment, no less! Clearly there is a recovery on. Buoyed up by this news, and several shandies, I made my way around the Architecture exhibition and saw a surprising mixture of projects. I had heard rumours that uniformity had crept in over the years but this was not in evidence. The only thing the Architecture students projects had in common was that they would never be built. I am not being unkind you understand, its just the nature of the system. The student is set free from the constraints of clients, costs and reality in general, so they can focus on developing skills which reality itself would not foster, but which reality needs all the same. Which set me thinking, given that I operate in the real world and I design my projects with construction in mind, would an exhibition of my un-built work look any different?Sadly lacking a gallery space of my own and not having the benefit of a professional curator, I have posted a collection of projects which never got off the ground, but could have been built, if things had only been different.
Contemporary Garage Conversion - Ravelston, Edinburgh.
This has to be my favourites, it came so close to being built and was only the fourth project designed by Capital A! I had just started the practice when my father-in-law suggested to a friend of his, who was trying to sell a house, that he would have better luck if it came with planning permission to convert the large double garage into habitable space. The design kept the outer walls of the garage and added a contemporary copper box on top. The upper level, containing the ensuite bedroom, is larger than the ground floor, which has the living area. The upper level projects out both front and back This defines an entrance at the front and a shaded intermediate zone at the back. Ideal for a gin and tonic on those rare Scottish summer days. The design benefited from mature trees and a panoramic view over the playing fields at Mary Erskine school. To my double surprise the client loved it and the planners approved it, without a question asked! The house was sold and I didn't hear anything until two years later when, as I was leaving a building site, I was contacted out of the blue by the new owners. They had my drawings and wanted to push ahead with the project. The new owners intended to use the conversion as a 'Granny Flat' for their parents to live in. We met a number of times and revised the design to suit their needs when, unfortunately, one of the parents fell very ill. The project stalled at that stage and is unlikely to go any further.
Contemporary Addition to a Cottage - Loch Tay, Stirlingshire.This is the longest running project I have on my books. It started back in 2009 and now in 2013, after many design changes, we are about to begin construction. This is one of those design changes. Back before we had established a budget or even a distinct brief for the job, the client wanted to explore possibilities. I was basically asked to let rip and design something contemporary that would also respect the site and the existing building. The basic idea was to increase the size of the cottage by adding another bedroom while increasing the living area and rationalising the entrance. To make the most of the view over Loch Tay, I designed in a semi-covered balcony. It gets windy up there, so a regular balcony wouldn't do. The new roof would be supported by clear span, laminated timber beams. These were a modern take on the traditional timber 'cruck' beams holding up the roof in the existing cottage. Copper and larch cladding would look contemporary while also being very robust and low maintenance. Over time the design was revised and the brief changed but this was my favourite version. What we are actually building is much less ambitious, and cheaper, but I managed to keep the larch cladding!
Contemporary Stairs for a New House - Kingsbarns, Fife.
This was an attempt to get in under the radar with a little something contemporary, to an otherwise ordinary house design. The site was on the edge of an historic village in Fife and came with outline planing permission. The house was quite typical and conservative in design and you would never know there was a two and a half story atrium just inside the front door! The client was keen on a big open space at the entrance and this would require a suitable stairs to compliment it. Because the house had been opened up to create this space, there was less floor available for storage. The stairs design was created to help resolve this by incorporating shelves where the balustrade would usually be. The stairs would be populated with the precious objects collected by the client over their lifetime. The stairs would not only be a feature in itself, it would act as a mini museum inside the house. In the end, not only did the stair not get build but the whole project was abandoned. I had to fight a bitter, lengthy, and ultimately successful, battle to get planning permission approved. The neighbours tried every trick in the book to prevent the house from going ahead; they formed a committee, lobbied local politicians and hired a planning consultant - ultimately we won but my client was not prepared to live in the area after the acrimony this caused. He sold the site and moved on.
House Extension - Corstorphine Hill, Edinburgh.
The client wanted a one storey wrap-around extension to enlarge their living and dining space. This project took its time in development and once the layout had been agreed, I produced these images showing what the extension could look like from the outside. I proposed a large overhanging portico, this would wrap around the extension elevation and provide an intermediate zone; not quote outside and not quite inside. Ideal for a barbecue or just a place to relax. The portico also framed the elevation and gave it depth. By coincidence I had a project under construction at the time which used exactly this portico technique to great effect. Unfortunately it was not at the stage where I could show my client the finished product and as a result she was not swayed by my arguments. A much more conventional extension was built instead.
Two Storey House Extension - Gracemount, Edinburgh.
This extension to the end of a short terrace in suburban Edinburgh had the opportunity to be something interesting. A full height, two storey space on the glazed corner would provide the client with abundant natural light over their kitchen / dining area. The timber cladding was intended to continue along the garden decking and the boundary fence, to give the design a cohesion and make it look like it was grounded in the site. You can guess the rest, a much less interesting extension eventually got built.
Luxury House - Ireland.
You might be surprised to know that I am Irish, I moved to Scotland to attend University in 1998 and never left. I got out just as the crazy construction boom began and I had no experience of the outrageous extravagances that eventually became commonplace. That was until my sister asked me to design a house for her husband and herself. They had very specific requirements that added up to over 500 square meters. Bearing in mind they don't yet have children, when I showed my sister this feasibility study, her first reaction was "its too small" ! The plot they own is in a very rural location, where traditional farmhouses are modest and usually surrounded by smaller outbuildings. Larger rural houses, dating from the 18th and 19th century, preferred the Georgian style, where formal symmetry was the norm. My design tried to combine these two themes. Given the amount of space required, a cottage would never work but I liked the way older farms used clusters of buildings and small yards to define space and add character. By breaking down the spaces into three zones, off a central stair gallery, the overall mass of the building was reduced. What could have been one enormous block, was cut down into smaller blocks. This T shape and its natural symmetry was then used to define outer courtyards and formal gardens, these would contrast well with the surrounding wild meadows. While nothing has yet been built, shortly after these plans were made my sister survived a serious illness. The recovery period has been long and she has other priorities at the moment. But who knows, maybe one day...
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