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Vernacular Architecture ~ Robert Venturi

Category: Architecture January 4th, 2008 by mbc

In my haphazard stumble through the world of architects and architecture, I came across Robert Venturi. Whilst not perhaps directly appreciating his work when seen on the page in print (his emergency service building for Disney World in Florida is a Fire Department HQ straight out of a Mickey Mouse cartoon), I do appreciate and agree with his concept of “vernacular” architecture. In simplistic terms it entails taking the building and design trends of a country or locality and using them as an architectural guide.

In his 1972 work “Learning from Las Vegas” he highlighted the common architectural features of neon lights, advertising hoardings and false shop fronts found in LA and advocated them as an alternative to sometimes stilted architectural rationalism.

As can be seen from Mickeys fire-station there is a degree of irony, humour and a powerful sense of appropriateness in his work – all of which appeal to me.

The tying of architecture to the reality of a place, rather than some idealised or fictional notion is what appeals to me. There is a view of how agricultural buildings should be converted to dwellings that is sometimes at odds with my own sensibilities. Rendered walls with stone dressing, gravel drives and varnished window frames present a disneyfied view of the countryside and don’t represent the true beauty and sense of place that I seek. Venturi’s vernacular architecture recognises this and presents an alternative approach.

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Organic Architecture ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Category: Architecture December 30th, 2007 by mbc

A Frank Lloyd Wright quotation:

Organic architecture more or less means organic society. An architecture inspired by this ideal cannot acknowledge the laws imposed by aestheticism or mere taste, just as an organic society should reject any external imposition on life that contrast with nature and the character of the man who has found his work and the place where he can be happy and useful in a form of existence suited to him.

In short, architecture should follow the needs of society and the individuals within that society; that any awkward imposition caused by aestheticism or mere taste should be rejected. This struck me as a powerful quote that pretty much sums up my own personal approach to architecture. Whilst architectural styles and movements can entice with their aesthetic beauty, discipline and rigour, my personal needs for an attractive and yet functional environment drive me down a more pragmatic route.

Form follows function…

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Le Corbusier ~ The function of a house

Category: Architecture November 18th, 2007 by mbc

The functions of a house, setting aside all other ‘romantic cobwebs’ are to provide:

1. A shelter against heat, cold, rain, thieves and the inquisitive.
2. A receptacle for sun and light.
3. A certain number of cells appropriated for cooking, work and personal life.

Le Corbusier … keeping it simple.

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Seven Lamps of Architecture

Category: Architecture June 20th, 2007 by mbc

I was recently wandering around the web rooting through building and design related sites and came across a reference to John Ruskin’s Seven Lamps of Architecture intrigued by the title, I decided to do some more digging and came across one of the foundations of architecture over the last 150 years.

I’ve not yet read the book, just some of the reviews and write ups scattered around the web, but it looks like fascinating stuff.

In the book, Ruskin expresses his belief in the nature and role of architecture and its aesthetics in relation to both current and future human existence.

The lamps of the title are the various modes by which architecture produces meaning – various perspectives from which we should seek meaning in the buildings we experience. The lamps can be used to judge and evaluate our buildings.

The seven lamps are:

  • Sacrifice,
  • Truth,
  • Power,
  • Beauty,
  • Life,
  • Memory,
  • Obedience…

One of Ruskin’s key charges is that in society (and don’t forget this was written in 1849) our material concerns out-weigh spiritual concerns – the body now tends to supplant the soul in our priorities.

In consideration of material concerns we must include contemplation of technology and the great gains made in this aspect of materiality since the industrial revolution. As such technology can blind us to spiritual concerns in pursuit of the material. We can fail in our spiritual obligations.

I found this particularly attractive and very relevant quote:

“The idea of self-denial for the sake of
posterity, of practising present economy for the sake of
debtors yet unborn, of planting forests that our
descendants may live under their shade, or of raising
cities for future nations to inhabit, never, I suppose,
efficiently takes place among publicly recognized motives
of exertion. Yet these are not the less our duties; nor
is our part fitly sustained upon the earth, unless the
range of our intended and deliberate usefulness include,
not only the companions, but the successors, of our
pilgrimage. God has lent us the earth for our life; it
is a great entail. It belongs as much to those who are
to come after us and whose names are already written in
the book of creation, as to us, and we have no right, by
any thing that we do or neglect, to involve them in
unnecessary penalties, or deprive them of benefits which
it was in our power to bequeath.”

John Ruskin 1849

…Ruskin, a Victorian with green credentials?

Read More

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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…

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 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…”


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


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…


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…