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Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

Category: Architecture April 9th, 2012 by mbc

The efficient, shiny world of construction in 1923…

Our engineers are healthy and virile, active and useful, balanced and happy in their work, our architects are disillusioned and unemployed, boastful or peevish. This is because there will soon be nothing more for them to do. We longer have the money to erect historical souvenirs. At the same time everyone needs to wash! Our engineers provide for these things and so they will be our builders.

Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture, 1923.

…architects can still be “boastful or peevish“, but judging by the majority of what I see our engineers are no longer feeling so “healthy and virile“…

Where will the 21st century injection of health and virility in construction come from? The green / eco / sustainable sector? Can the planners and regulators support rather than stifle?

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Can you tell what it is yet…?

Category: Architecture November 12th, 2011 by mbc

I took this picture a few weeks ago at a favourite spot…

From bochgoch

The picture is taken up through the centre of the keep at Dinefwr Castle, one of the seats of the kings of Deheubarth. Beautifully circular, striking when you consider it’s over 800 years old (although I’m not sure exactly how much restoration CADW have carried out and I seem to recall that the Victorians or their contemporaries messed about with the castle a fair bit turning it into more of a folly than a stronghold, so what we see here is probably considerably younger than 800 years old). I guess there was some sort of formwork involved… now that’s what I call architecture.

I thought I’d share this one as well.

From bochgoch

That’s Dryslwyn Castle in the distance, with Paxton’s Tower on the hill to the left, photographed down the Tywi Valley (the river is in the foreground) from Dinefwr Castle.

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William Burges

Category: Architecture April 8th, 2011 by mbc

I spend most of the week in and around Cardiff. Anyone who spends any amount of time in around Cardiff and manages raise their eyes to the skyline can’t help but witness the impact that Marquess of Bute and William Burges had on the city.

William Burges (1827 – 1881) was an English architect and designer. Recognised as the greatest of the Victorian “art-architects”, Burges work strove to rise above 19th century industrialisation through the inspiration of an idealised medieval Europe.

Burges’s style was formed through twenty years of study and travel, during his relatively short career he applied the same vocabulary to increasing effect.

Burges’s most notable works, Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch were undertaken for John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute – a man variously described on Wikipedia as the richest man in the world and as the richest man in Britain – take your pick.

William Burges - Park House Cardiff

Cardiff Castle is an example of high victorian gothic romanticism, Castell Coch, that sits just outside the city is a fairy-tale gothic castle on the site of a 13th century fortification.

My personal favourite in Cardiff is his Park House – pictured right. The house was Commissioned by the Marquess in 1874 for his Chief Engineer, John McConnochie. It is a building on a more domestic scale than either of the Castles. A building of liveable proportions that still manages to impress, inspire and provide a glimpse of the escape through art and architecture that Burges sought.

Other references:
Arts and Crafts Home

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My tiling has soul!

Category: Architecture June 26th, 2009 by mbc

I came across this quote from one of my favourite authors on architecture and design, Christopher Alexander, author of A Pattern Language in a book about software design – ‘Patterns of Software – Tales from the Software Community’ by Richard P. Gabriel (‘Patterns of Software’ is worth a read in its own right if you’ve any interest in software and is available free on the linked page.)

We have become used to almost fanatical precision in the construction of buildings. Tile work, for instance, must be perfectly aligned, perfectly square, every tile perfectly cut, and the whole thing accurate on a grid to a tolerance of a sixteenth of an inch. But our tilework is dead and ugly, without soul.

In this Mexican house* the tiles are roughly cut, the wall is not perfectly plumb, and the tiles don’t even line up properly. Sometimes one tile is as much as half an inch behind the next one in the vertical plane.

And why? Is it because these Mexican craftsmen didn’t know how to do precise work? I don’t think so. I believe they simply knew what is important and what is not, and they took good care to pay attention only to what is important: to the color, the design, the feeling of one tile and its relationship to the next—the important things that create the harmony and feeling of the wall. The plumb and the alignment can be quite rough without making any difference, so they didn’t bother to spend too much effort on these things. They spent their effort in the way that made the most difference. And so they produced this wonderful quality, this harmony … simply because that is what they paid attention to, and what they tried to produce.

* The house referred to is the House of Tiles in Mexico City.

So now when I look at my less-than-perfect lines and consider my easy-on-the-eye approach to tiling I can put a name to that previously unidentified factor that let me get away with it all … my tiling has soul

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Parasitic architecture

Category: Architecture October 16th, 2008 by mbc

Whilst bringing to mind images of ticks and leeches, parasitic architecture is an umbrella term, used to refer to self-contained new buildings that are attached to an existing structure. Parasitic because of the use made of existing infrastructure.

Personally, after the time and energy that have gone into my barn conversion project the prospect of picking a unit and dropping it on site is very attractive. A few examples…

spacebox >> spacebox.co.uk
Closely resembling storage containers of the type used to transport goods by sea and road, spacebox is a Dutch designed:

‘…high specification low-cost, studio-housing unit that can be installed and moved quickly. Site preparation is faster than traditional multi-occupant buildings. Each studio contains a fully specified kitchen, shower-room cum WC. Water, electricity, sewerage and telephone connections are fully integrated at the manufacturing stage.’

These rectangular blocks can be painted a custom colour to blend with their surroundings and can be quickly commissioned on site as they come preprovisioned with all the usual amenities and merely need coupling up to services. They are aimed a the ‘low’ end of the market – student / temporary accommodation.

Lift-Up House >> turnercastle.co.uk
Another example is the Lift-up House ia two-bedroom apartment seemingly flown onto the roof of an industrial building in Hoxton, London.

Las Palmas Parasite >> kortekniestuhlmacher.nl
A striking protuberance on the lift shaft of a building in Rotterdam.

The Las Palmas Parasite was a prototypical house aiming at combining the advantages of prefabricated technology and the unique qualities of tailor-made design. The limitations imposed by the size of the elevator shaft demanded a compact plan and volume.
The object was supported by the walls of the existing building. Services like water supply, sewage and the electric installation had been linked to the existing installations.

loftcube / Werner Aisslinger >> aisslinger.de
Werner Aisslinger is a German furniture designer who also designed the loftcube, a ‘modular living unit’ that can be tailored internally and externally to the desires and needs of the residents. The module can then be lifted into place.

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Progress

Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter… https://twitter.com/barnconversion/status/368427314868396032

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

I love the interior of this conversion and the great use of horizontal slats on this conversion. I retains the essential ‘barnyness’ of the building… flemish-barn-by-arend-groenewegen-architect

Coming soon, my barn conversion guide… Interesting earthship greenhouse project on Kickstarter

I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“. If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by… It’s already funded so I […]

Barns

Barns Gallery on Remodelista

There is a lovely gallery of barn related inspirational photographs available on Remodelista.

Barns – the Long House

Situated on the North Norfolk coast, this is a building to admire…

Barns – the Balancing Barn

A stunning piece of architecture, although not entirely to my taste…

New fast-track planning permission for the development of barns proposed

The Daily Mail reports on a new fast-track route through planning controls for the conversion of barns…

De-assembled, re-assembled, re-cycled barns

“A bit like a private sector, modernising, repurposing St Fagan’s…”

Design

What is a shadow gap?

A shadow gap – a mysterious dark place between two plains…

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

Architecture

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

The Stirling prize 2012 winner – the Sainsbury Laboratory

The 2012 Stirling prize was won by a outsider, the Sainsbury Laboratory…

The Stirling prize 2012

I think that this years Stirling prize has some exciting projects on the shortlist…

Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

The efficient, shiny world of construction in 1923…

Design in Storage

When designing a layout it’s easy to forget to plan for storage…

News

Green Deal slow beginnings?

Oh dear! The green deal hasn’t got off to a very auspicious start… As reported in the Telegraph today since it was launched nearly a year ago just 12 homes have taken advantage of the Green Deal with a few hundred more in the pipeline. 71,210 households had been assessed for Green Deal measures such […]

The property roller coaster – planning reform to be rethought

Eric Pickles vague compromise on planning reform keeps the house happy (for now).

Energy policy, smoke screens, fracking, confusion and big bucks

There seems to be only one thing that is certain in the world of energy policy and that is that costs will rise annually above and beyond anything that inflation can currently throw at us. Beyond that, smoke screens & confusion seem to reign. Take the recent news for example… It’s reported today that the […]

Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on the green belt…

Green Deal Launch

The Green deal launched in the UK on Monday of this week. Fanfares? fireworks? a deluge of marketing? … read more …

Plaid Cymru’s Green New Deal promise

The leader of Plaid Cymru has promised a “Green New Deal” to rejuvenate the Welsh economy and help maintain Wales’ position at the forefront of Green policies.

Permitted development extension limits to be doubled

The government is due to announce a temporary increase in the maximum depth of extensions that can be built under permitted development rules.

Lloyd Khan, making shelter simple.

I wanted to share an interview with Lloyd Khan that I recently found…

Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

Sustainable development – with the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

While reading up on the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) I came across this quote from Sir Patrick Abercrombie…