Bighams Production Campus - A Model for Rural Industry

Bighams Production Campus - A Model for Rural Industry

If we want rural and urban areas to remain distinct and not just become merged in ubiquitous suburbia we need to think more imaginatively about where development occurs and how it can be made specific to its place.

Hans Döllgast - Post-war Reconstruction in Munich

Hans Döllgast - Post-war Reconstruction in Munich

In Döllgast's work the historic fabric, wartime scars and frugal 1950s work are bound together into a new construction that feels whole, inclusive of all the elements of its history.

 

Emil Steffann - St Laurentius, Munich

Emil Steffann - St Laurentius, Munich

It is a heavy building, made with thick brick walls, buttresses and round arches that feel quite rustic and rural, like a stripped down Italian village church. 

The Abbot’s Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey

The Abbot’s Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey

I finally got round to visiting Glastonbury Abbey this week, having lived near-by for 5 years and been deterred by the magic-crystal shops, and discovered this little gem of a building. The Abbot’s Kitchen is the only ...

Nantes Architecture School – Lacaton Vassal

Nantes Architecture School – Lacaton Vassal

Last week I went to see a building I’d been longing to visit since it opened in 2009. The School of Architecture in Nantes (ENSA) by Architects Anne Lacaton & Jean-Philippe Vassal takes a provocative and inspiring attitude to educational space that is sadly lacking in most British universities. It looks like a carpark, which is pretty much what it is in its construction. From their first...

Hooke Park

Hooke Park

The UK is one of the least forested nations in Europe with only 12% of land area covered and 80% of the sawn softwood used in construction is imported (Forestry Commission figures, 2014). Hidden away in a 350 acre working forest in Dorset, students from the Architectural Association are experimenting with new ways of designing and making buildings using locally grown timber. Isolation and the woodland setting are...

Barrington Court

Barrington Court

On Sunday we headed over to Barrington Court, the first large house taken on by the National Trust (in 1907), and one that caused them such serious financial difficulties that it was held up for years after as an example of why they should be vary wary of taking on other stately homes. For over ...

Porto architecture

Porto architecture

There’s a backlog of half-written posts building up here due to the distractions of a 4 month old baby who doesn’t recognise blog writing as a valid activity. This one shouldn’t be too hard to wrap up though, so I’ll give it a go. In early November...

Avonmouth Grain & Coal Silos

Avonmouth Grain & Coal Silos

From the M5 motorway bridge near Bristol you get a magnificent view over the docks at Avonmouth. In the low landscape of carparks and sheds I had spotted several concrete grain silos poking up but had never been able to stop and investigate. This weekend ...

Michelucci – Church of the Autostrada and Bank in Colle val d’Elsa

Michelucci – Church of the Autostrada and Bank in Colle val d’Elsa

I have long been intrigued by the work of Giovanni Michelucci, an architect from Pistoia who’s early work such as Santa Maria Novella railway station in Florence was rational and functional but who later developed a much more expressive approach rooted in ...

Shatwell Farm Barn

Shatwell Farm Barn

I visited an intriguing building this week at Shatwell Farm near Castle Cary in Somerset. Its a cow shed but one with rather higher ambition than your typical farm building. Designed by Stephen Taylor Architects the barn is part of a cluster of agricultural buildings in a small valley at the edge of the Hadspen Estate. The owner has carried out a ...

Homes for Heroes

 

Finding the right rural building plot isn’t easy.  You (quite rightly) aren’t allowed to build on open countryside outside a village curtilage as defined in the Local Development Framework.  Unless you are a major house builder the only options are to divide up a larger plot within a village, to convert an agricultural building or to buy a house and knock it down.  The plot we found had a ramshackle bungalow on it whose owner had recently died having lived in it for 40 years.   Its location is idyllic, just within sight of the next building at the edge of a village with a fantastic view to the south across the Somerset Levels.

Our intention was always to demolish the bungalow and start again – after all, building a new house was the deal that had lured me out of London.  But there was something about the simplicity of the little place, 4 rooms around a central hallway-cum-sitting room, and the fact that someone had lived here happily for so long with a minimum of modern comforts that made us rather sentimental about it.  It had no pretentions, just the quiet dignity of something built efficiently and economically to fulfill its purpose.

I don’t have any information on the original design – does anyone out there know more about it?  Perhaps it was never intended to last long.  There’s no reason a timber frame won’t last for centuries if kept dry but with only a small fireplace to dry out the damp and less than adequate maintenance ours was suffering seriously from rot.  A pipe had burst, soaking the inside and by the time we started work there were mushrooms growing on the floor.  There was no alternative but to start again.  We salvaged what materials we could but most of the timber was rotten and the walls were lined with asbestos boards.  All we have are the thin softwood floorboards which so far have only been used to make compost bins.

We had looked at a few sites that had similar bungalows on them, all being sold as building plots, and we’ve found several more not far away.  Ours was built around 1920.  It had a softwood timber frame with painted softwood cladding and an asbestos shingle roof.  After the 1st World War the shortage of labour and orthodox building materials led to the government offering subsidies to local authorities for houses built using non-traditional methods that could take advantage of the spare production capacity from the armaments factories.  Systems were developed using concrete, steel, cast iron and timber and around 50000 were built in the decade following the 1st World War.

And now people like us are pulling them down.  Maybe its inevitable but it is rather sad that a whole typology is slowly being removed from the landscape.  Part of their appeal is their small size and lack of permanence – ours certainly had something of the frontier about it.  A flimsy timber system-built house is the antithesis of the Englishman’s house as his castle.  We liked the way the well-kept garden had grown around it so that the fruit trees were of a similar scale to the bungalow, preventing it from dominating the site.

Here are a few photos of ours taken in the autumn sunlight the first day we went to see it in 2010.  If you want to stay in a similar house there is a 1920s Boulton & Paul bungalow in north Devon you can rent owned by the Landmark Trust.

 

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