Renovation would have improved the house that was originally here, but the decision to demolish and begin afresh has been truly vindicated
Nothing, in the world of architecture, is predictable. That at least is the conclusion you’d come to if you followed the evolution of this house, which sits in a leafy corner of semi-rural Renfrewshire. Graeme Andrew of ataSTUDIO, the practice behind the project, explains its unusual progression, which actually began as the refurbishment and extension of a 1950s house. “When our client first spoke to us, she asked us to look at the property that she’d recently bought with a view to extending it,” he says. “She wanted a big, bright, open house with views of the valley to the west.
“Hazel, my partner, and I took a look and saw straight away that it needed new windows and a new roof, upgraded electrics, heating and insulation, as well as an extension, opening it up inside and landscaping. We did put forward several proposals to do all of this work, but we also took it upon ourselves to produce three different sketch ideas of what a completely new house might look like.”
The reasons for doing so were sound: “We thought it would be far more productive to use the same budget to build a new house rather than spend it on a renovation. Doing so would save on VAT, making it far better value for money. It would also allow us to position the new building better on the site and create spaces that would not only bring in the views but also increase privacy.”
Of the three design proposals put forward, the owner was drawn to the most ambitious one. “Originally we had an idea for a house with a courtyard, entering at the existing access and looking up the avenue of giant beech trees towards the views to the west,” explains Graeme. “We went through about seven or eight refinements to arrive at the design we have now. It evolved from a courtyard into a spiral with increasing height all around and a central roof-edge window letting light into the centre of the living space. If you unfold the elevations [see page 150] you get a simple diagonal line that continues all around the building. It was quite an evolution of an idea.”
In terms of getting planning permission, there was little in the way of challenges, says the architect. “There’s nothing near the house and in any case there’s a real hotch-potch of building styles in the area. There was no context we needed to adhere to.
“It does have a bigger footprint than the previous house and it’s oriented slightly differently – the garden had a great lawn so we wanted to maximise the view across this, so it was obvious where to put the building. Utilities were in the right position so we designed around these – that represented a substantial saving compared to cutting them off at the street and then having them all brought back in again.”
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 142-150, issue 102.