-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Thursday, June 09, 2005

it's all in the silhouette

We just had a phone chat with Eric about how to take things forward with the house planning. Rather than talk in detail through every comment we'd written, Eric instead summarised the key points he'd taken out from reading it to check he'd got the gist. It turned out to be really helpful for us too because he spotted consistencies and key themes that I'd not noticed.

For instance, Eric picked up that the common thread between the houses we've sent pictures of is that they all have a distinctive and often unusual silhouette, especially in terms of the way they relate to the sky. Which seems obvious when you point it out, but it wasn't something I'd explicitly thought of before.

Another point relates to the arrangement and feel of rooms. We're leaning towards rooms that are well-proportioned individually with clearly defined boundaries and roles, rather than spaces that blend into each other. In a sense, we're wanting rooms that have a formality that a lot of more modern open-plan styles often lack - but not in the stuffy sense of the word. But, just as important are the details, with each room having it's own character and intricacies - whether it be in the window shaping, positioning of a nook, or whatever. In a sense, it's these that give each room it's essence.

It's hard to articulate precisely but this feels pretty close and it certainly would explain why I've always much preferred living in old houses to modern ones. Rooms in old houses naturally have intricacies... sometimes designed in from the start because 100 years ago it was more common for buildings to be crafted not just shoved together; other times arising over time just from being lived in. Plus the style of living back then was a little more formal perhaps than nowadays which lended itself to more clearly defined spaces.

Because of this, rather than dive straight into drafting a revised houseplan, Eric is first going to explore some general shapes, especially focusing on the rooflines and details within parts of rooms. He thinks, and we agree, that we'll know instinctively when we find something that works, that captures the feelings we want to evoke. Then that gives us something to build the rest of the design around.

He also loves the idea of having some kind of tower, which is great. I was a little worried he might not be enthusiastic about that as it is rather whimsical! He said it'd be unusual to do in that most of the focus in architecture these days is on simplifying with an emphasis on function - whereas some of the things we're asking for, like the tower, are hark back almost to the "follies" of yesteryear.

Now, when he said the word "follies" my first thought was of those mock castles and gothic arches that scatter the grounds of old stately homes here... which isn't at all what we want! But, I'm not worried because Eric described an example of a kind of architectural folly that is akin to what we want... a "widows walk". Apparently, back when he lived in the US he worked with a team doing some kind of historical buildings surveying. They'd spend several months in each building so in the process he got to know a lot about how old buildings were put together! One of them had this kind of walkway up high off the roof that you could go onto to look out. It was a folly in the sense that you could get the same view virtually from the window, so it wasn't fulfilling any real function.

Anyway, we discussed a few other things but these are the key points... plus, it's late now and I'm too tired to keep writing! I wanted to get down as much as I could tonight so I didn't forget.

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