The Structure

Written by Chris Boydell, Alan Conisbee & Associates.

The use of exposed fair-faced concrete columns on the ground floor provides stability, visual purity and an open-plan layout. The potential problems of damp-penetration and cold-bridging associated with solid concrete construction, were considered from the outset and addressed through attention to the quality of the materials and detailing of the finishes. In particular, the setting out of the timber window frames and internal cladding at ground floor level and the underside of the first floor ensured the damp paths are broken and the appropriate thermal performance achieved.

The poor subsoil conditions required a piled-foundation solution, bearing into the firm underlying clay. The foundations support an in situ reinforced-concrete ground slab that projects beyond the superstructure on all elevations, to create a plinth.

The first floor and roof comprise large wall panels and open eaves, and are framed steelwork, to facilitate their form and scale, and provide a stable framework onto which the finishes were applied. The timber-clad construction is highly insulated and the steelwork is hidden within the wall thickness.

The structure, while simple, required a high standard of finishes, and tight tolerances, to achieve the necessary level of quality to the exposed concrete. This was achieved by the contractor.
The use of a projecting ground-floor slab and expressed concrete frame to the first-floor level was perceived as a strong form, off which the more delicate timber clad upper construction would rise confidently. In execution, the proportions of the concrete columns and first-floor slab blend pleasingly with the scale of the building and palette of materials.

To summarise, the structural form of this building is simple, but relies totally on careful detailing and quality of construction to achieve its effect. It is also refreshing to have the opportunity to develop the design to execution, without any compromise of the purity of the original.

Article in Architect’s Journal, 29th November 2001

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