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Design Guide

Posted by caliwag , 29 August 2015 · 1,385 views

Regulars will have noticed that I have not been active for some time. However I note that my blog still seems to receive 30+ visits a day.

I make mention of my free design guide, but generally not where to find it. One day it will be updated and published, however if interested,
please find the original attached. I know it's many years old now, but personally I believe, if we don't get bogged down in new technical design thinking and fashion, design thinking doesn't date!


Attached Files

29 Aug 2015 02:30 PM
Thanks calliwag. Ian
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Thanks Jim, it is a good piece of writing. I would put higher priority on the size, location & proportions viewed externally rather than internally - to a point, inevitably there is some comprimise but so many houses built these days it looks like the final look isn't properly considered or cared about when with just a tweak with sizing one way or another would have made all the difference. As you say these have a huge impact on the houses character.
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Aye, thank you. when I started on this guide I listed distinct categories for chapters but really in quoting my old tutor 'design is like the old joke about the spittoon, it's all in one' a most unpleasant image but in terms of house design probably true. Surely you can separate out construction and energy issues, but 'the dress' as I was going to call one chapter is the area of most argument, prejudice, whims of the planners and neighbours and so on.

If a client came to me and announced they loved everything by early Frank Lloyd Wright or Alvar Aalto, the end result could not possibly result in England's favorite...late Georgian/Regency but the interior could follow similar rules/tenets in all cases...well, nearly. I have really presented my views on lost opportunities, overlooked options and scope for 'in depth' brief making including must haves/have nots etc. Much of these points and references are expanded in the blogs.

Location is interesting as I have used the not easily defined term 'repose'. I guess it's the sort of feeling you get when you see it. I also emphasise the design approach of considering all at the first site visits...my excellent landscape architect colleague, Par Gustaffson always felt that' in terms of professionals, the first survey of a plot or site should involve a landscape architect (I suppose he would) mainly because they hold an unbiased view of a house design but strong views on the wider benefits of the site...views, existing planting, climate, wider environment, disadvantages and so on...one can make serious blunders and miss opportunities by not assessing everything...as I mention, 'survey, analyse, propose' was always his analytical way of approaching a new plot.

Anyway, thanks for your comments again...happy designing.
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02 Sep 2015 12:25 PM
Great piece of writing, and very useful, wish we had seen it before we appointed our architects, probably would'nt have changed the selection but we might have been clearer with our brief and ironed out what the architects term 'contradictions' in the brief. One thing they do talk about which is not in the A-Z is 'massing' I guess its an aspect of repose, or the other way around, but how do you go about deciding on the massing, are there any rules for it, how might an amateur go about assessing it or is it all about just being pleasing to the eye in the context of its surrounding - which is repose? I am / am I confused!
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Aye, thanks for your comments and thoughts...Shooting from the hip, I guess massing comes as a result of internal design, tradition, planners demands (fitting in!), cost of complexity, resulting poor detailing, self-builders research, re-sale, prejudice...etc etc. people do tend to stick to right angles (rightly or wrongly) long before other demands. It has to be said that most houses I have designed (many speculatively but some real) have been relatively traditional for the reasons above. To be honest if you design the organic/responsive way, from the inside out, with no regard to massing, you will end up with hugely expensive, tricky and leaky details
Now that's not to say it cannot be done. I can think of examples, under the modernist banner, which have been hugely successful. Hans Scharoun's houses in Germany would be judged odd now but are entirely designed Inside/to out...but with attendant tricky and expensive details...to be honest likewise his flats, schools, libraries and concert hall...all with no compromise to internal demands...similarly the Scharoun inspired Coop Himmelbau.
These are exciting builds but possibly not what you're exploring...
My blogs expand site demands...orientation, gradient, views, existing planting and other such demands for massing/house form. these include the enfilade house (row of rooms): Enclosing, inward looking house (rooms surrounding courtyards), and enfronting house (House presenting a face) (actually this one represents most peoples first image) . These are interestingly discussed in Charles Moore's excellent little book 'The Place of Houses'...(Moore, lyndon, Turnbull)
So, it's all about prejudice, neighbours, planners, cost, detailing nightmares (don't trust builders to resolve) etc etc...see blogs. Interesingly Mies Van de Rohe, apparently advised Hans S to 'make your rooms square Hans'...architectural rivalry I guess as they were diametrically opposed as designers!!
So if you are a showy type...enfront. If privacy is top of your list...consider enclosing design, wrapping around interior spaces (think Moroccan), and if there are narrow site demands...enfilade can be superb. Of course you can do them all if the site is right, but it rarely is. Finally to save hassle and cost, stay trad,. form

Hope this is clearer than mud. Have fun making your model, if it's not beyond that stage!
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03 Sep 2015 09:33 PM
Thanks for that, just got back to it after a busy day fetching family from the Ukraine - don't ask! Yes I can see your point. We actually wanted (want) a passive house but chose architects because they had not done one before so wouldn't be dragging too much baggage to the party but appreciate this approach has risks. We now like the designs we have been shown, I have run them through the PHPP and they can work - at a cost, and have asked that the second version, of four, be worked up for planning. Agree that working inside out has consequences for details and cost but how often do you get a client who wants to, or even thinks they can, work that way. We put in our brief that we wanted the building to make a statement on the street scene and are very happy to go for a modernist aesthetic. We like the enfilade approach and had some initial ideas for it in our first thoughts as the plot is narrow (10m) but eventually put a single open plan space as the main area downstairs but with visual connection from front garden to back garden. We certainly felt that writing the brief for the architects was, has been, the hardest part of the project to date because we wanted to leave it open enough to allow our architect to show flair but closed enough to ensure that our desires were incorporated. Our worry is that we still don't know if the constraints in the brief have prevented them from having ideas that we would have loved because we did not leave the brief open enough.
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caliwag, on 30 August 2015 - 10:56 AM, said:

Location is interesting as I have used the not easily defined term 'repose

That's the thing - if it can be easily defined then life would be unsubtle and less enjoyable and we wouldn't need architects.

Talknig to a resolutely non-intellectual non-airy-fairy dog breeder (!) the other day, she used the term "that house sits well".

That is quite similar to repose. What she means is that it is some way pleasing and comfortable in its setting, enhancing rather than conflicting with the surroundings.

I am reminded of a description of a 40 year spouse - "I know him as well as an old overcoat."

So the qualities are - comfortable, suitable, nothing that could be a sharp corner.

Keep writing.

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Thanks for your interesting post, as always Ferdinand. Indeed you have hit the nail on the head.Ii love the "old overcoat" analogy.
At the risk of invoking Delius-style English Idyll music, it is very much "sitting-well" in its setting...not easy to describe in words,
a sort of "Know it when you see it" feeling. I have to refer to Arthur Martin's book of 1906..'The small house' where he tries to qualify
and elaborate his section on repose, "We must make the best of what nature provides..." He gives examples under headings "repose
in buildings", "qualities of the site", Choice of materials", "Pitfalls in design" and so on...all good stuff, for 1906, to my mind with sniffy comments about fussiness in design and overly busy elevations...a point made by an architect I worked with as "the sample cupboard dumped on the site!"

None of this is easy: indeed it is design...along with everything else I talk about...being "all in One" and considering the garden/site and surroundings ahead of the house design, yet considering all at the same time! Am I being totally contradictory here? I may say repose was never discussed at
school of architecture or Interior design, at least until a genius landscape architect arrived...err, from Sweden.

The above book, which may clarify, is available, original and reprinted, from abebooks.co.uk at a range of softback/hardback editions and prices.

Mind..."Fortune favours the prepared mind" so carry a wee sketchbook take note of all goodies! Invaluable.
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Thank you so much Caliwag - being a complete beginner, this was massively helpful!
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Aye, thanks there Dean...your welcome. As you may have found there is a variety of expansion on the themes in the blogs, including some of the best and most interesting books, many available cheaply secondhand from abebooks.co.uk.
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