World’s most ex­tra­or­di­nary builds shed light on home truths

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS - Ric Blenkharn, Bramhall Blenkharn Ar­chi­tects, Mal­ton,

I RE­CENTLY watched an episode of The World’s Most Ex­tra­or­di­nary Homes cur­rently be­ing shown on BBC2. It fea­tures the ac­tress Caro­line Quentin and ar­chi­tect Piers Tay­lor. It made com­pelling view­ing and I was par­tic­u­larly at­tracted to the dy­namism be­tween the two pre­sen­ters. Clearly, both are pas­sion­ate about homes and it was great to see down to earth views be­ing ex­pressed by Caro­line Quentin, off­set by the ar­chi­tec­tural en­thu­si­asm of Piers Tay­lor. There are in­nu­mer­able house projects be­ing shown on TV, but this par­tic­u­lar pro­gramme seems to have dis­cov­ered a mag­i­cal in­gre­di­ent of­ten lack­ing on house cen­tered pro­grammes. It is a joy to watch the two pre­sen­ters com­pli­ment­ing one another. A case of yin and yang.

This par­tic­u­lar pro­gramme high­lights build­ings lo­cated in beau­ti­ful wooded set­tings across the globe from North Amer­ica to New Zealand. The houses shown por­tray imag­i­na­tion and panache, with each of them sit­ting com­fort­ably in their ex­otic lo­ca­tions. It is dif­fi­cult to com­pare houses in such lo­ca­tions to those found in the UK, but each has a story to tell about their set­ting and the way clients have in­ter­acted with their ar­chi­tects. It is fas­ci­nat­ing for me to hear how much clients en­joyed the work­ing re­la­tion­ships.

A good re­la­tion­ship is key to pro­duc­ing an imag­i­na­tive be­spoke so­lu­tion.

The cli­mate of their set­tings has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the de­sign of the homes. I have re­cently been able to visit Aus­tralia and wit­ness first hand the de­sign of new homes in hot sunny cli­mates. Here the em­pha­sis is on shade and keep­ing cool, which cre­ates some fas­ci­nat­ing prop­er­ties.

Older colo­nial style prop­er­ties have cov­ered ve­ran­dahs and cor­ru­gated tin roofs. Mod­ern prop­er­ties ex­hibit an ex­u­ber­ance of styles, from the gaudy and bizarre to the sleek and mod­ern. They all sit side by side to give a jum­bled vis­ual land­scape. In Aus­tralia it is the norm for peo­ple to have their own houses de­signed, rather than bought off the shelf – so no two build­ings are the same. New homes are fre­quently con­structed in con­crete or tim­ber frame, with a range of cladding ma­te­ri­als such as ren­der or pre fin­ished sheet ma­te­ri­als.

I found this ap­proach al­most a vis­ual as­sault on the senses. While I could ap­pre­ci­ate the care taken in many of the build­ings, over­all, they lacked co­he­sion and a sense of place, which in­forms much of our tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture. Yet, the use of such forms and ma­te­ri­als is a by-prod­uct of dif­fer­ing con­struc­tions. If we are to pur­sue forms of con­struc­tion us­ing off site man­u­fac­ture, then it is clearly a chal­lenge for the de­signer to try and cre­ate build­ings, which have rel­e­vance to place. For me it is im­por­tant that build­ings do ex­hibit a sense of place and be­long­ing, which con­tin­ues the his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tion of ver­nac­u­lar ar­chi­tec­ture. It is not to say that dif­fer­ing forms and ma­te­ri­als are wrong, but care should be taken to de­sign and con­struct build­ings to con­tinue the sense of per­ma­nence and com­mu­nity, which form the back­bone of our towns and vil­lages.

While in­di­vid­u­al­ity is im­por­tant, so too, is the no­tion that homes built with re­spect to place, en­able a sense of com­mu­nity to be formed. The spa­ces be­tween build­ings, the care­ful choice of ma­te­rial and scale all cre­ate this sense of place which add per­ma­nence to our sur­round­ings. As tech­nol­ogy ad­vances and new ma­te­ri­als are used, we must be aware of the chal­lenges to the vis­ual en­vi­ron­ment we cher­ish.

Em­brace tech­nol­ogy and new forms of con­struc­tion, but do so with re­spect to our im­por­tant her­itage.

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