Friday, 30 September 2011

Out of the ground.. Finally!

It seems like an age since I last gave an update on the progress of my house build - I guess at this rate I'll never be able to replace Kevin McCloud and Grand Designs..

Part of the reason I've not written anything for a while is that until now there has generally been little to show - groundworks always seem to take an interminably long time to do and with this stage of the project being probably the riskiest it's the bit you want over and done with and forgotten as soon as possible! We've had the odd problem and a sleepless night or two but with a scheme such as this where we are literally building out the entire site you really have to expect a little difficulty along the way. Well we've got through it and finally the floor structure is down and the bricks are on site so, theoretically at least, the build should really start to fly now..

Thursday, 22 September 2011

K College Fully Open

K College main entrance & Media and Arts Centre
Today I got the chance to walk around the now fully complete K College in Tonbridge (Kent, Southeast England). If you've not been following my blogs this is a 23,000 sqm College for which I led the design whilst working for Dyer Architects in London - also see earlier post "Award for K College".

K College was built in two construction phases to an extremely tight budget and programme. Phase 1 opened last summer with two thirds of the total build, and Phase 2 (the final piece) is the part that's just been finished. I have to say I am extremely pleased and excited about the result. Whilst this (phase 2) was the smaller part of construction it provides the majority of the most interesting spaces and makes sense of Phase 1 - turning what was a new building that was surprisingly difficult to understand from within it's corridors, into a complete and very legible campus.

The new courtyard which replaces a 5 storey 60's building brings light and volume to the centre of the college and provides what will surely be a well used social heart. This is unlike the majority of internal atrium or "street" based education schemes of recent years as it is outside in the fresh air!! What I like most about this new courtyard space is that by taking advantage of the natural slope of the site we were able to produce three distinct levels or terraces each of individual character. This breaking up of the space helps create a more human scale and provides the opportunity for various activities to take place simultaneously without interfering with each other too much. I think my favourite terrace is the lowest which is adjacent to the main refectory / cafe and main performance venue - here we provided a spill out area for tables and chairs together with a series of 'elephant' steps to sit on. These steps create a natural amphitheater and the idea is that the college can now utilise this space for outside performances when the weather allows.

Anyway, here are some pictures I took from my visit, I'll leave you to make you own opinions..

Lowest Terrace with Elephant Seating & Middle Terrace for reading outside Learning Resource Centre (LRC)

Middle Terrace with view of curved LRC

Lowest Terrace looking towards refectory with cafe breakout

Curved timber cladding on LRC

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 5 September 2011

Architect in the House

One of the best things about leaving a large practice and starting your own is that you get the chance to decide where and in what you want to invest your own time in. When we first started we found it amazing, once left to our own devices, how quickly we were able to meet new people and broaden our network. One of the many ways we decided to do this was through an event called 'Architect in the House' which puts architects together with local people for an initial free consultancy to provide ideas for their house or extension- the 'client' is then expected to make a small donation in aid of the charity 'Shelter' in return.

So far we've provided three consultations for Architect in the House and I have found them all to be immensely enjoyable and rewarding. I have to admit to having experienced an initial feeling of trepidation of what would happen if I arrived and couldn't come up with any good ideas. However, after a relaxed chat followed by a quick measured survey to draw up a base plan from which to work from, the ideas flowed with the clients in a natural way. It has been great to be meeting people in this way and I've found developing designs in these brief encounters as enjoyable as working on concepts for multiple-million pound commercial schemes.

One of the consultations led to a small commission to look further at some options for converting a small bedroom attic space with a low sloping ceiling into a bathroom space. Presenting the ideas back to my client the following week reminded me of one the main reasons I enjoy being an architect. I felt fairly confident in the scheme but the enthusiasm with which it was received was truly gratifying..

Image produced in Revit showing the proposed converted bedroom attic space