The Search for Totality

 

We are researching a method of designing our projects ‘in totality’, an approach developed by Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen. Using this concept, we plan to research and design a range of ‘imperfect’ yet universally appealing products that would be handmade in London using raw materials like wood, metals and glass. Initial ideas include door handles, threshold details, light fittings, furniture, light switch plates and knobs, and plug sockets. As we undertake this exciting piece of research, this short blog post explains Arne Jacobsen’s approach in some more detail and reflects on how his unique Scandinavian architectural tradition has had a profound impact on international architecture.

totality interior design london

A life’s work

Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) designed numerous notable buildings of the 20th century, ranging from theatres, sports halls and schools, to hotels, the Danish National Bank and St Catherine’s College, Oxford. Although first and foremost an architect, he is arguably most remembered since his death in 1971 as an interior design innovator, thanks to his prolific and diverse designs. He created a range of modernist chairs in the 1950s that are still widely seen today (examples include the ant chair, the tongue chair, the swan chair and the egg chair), and his collaboration in the late 1960s with VOLA led to the design of a customisable system of plumbing fittings meant for both kitchen and bathroom. The mechanical parts of the VOLA series are all hidden, leaving only the spout and handle visible to the user – a completely new concept at the time. This design is now recognised and found across the world and in many prestigious buildings such as the German Reichstag in Berlin, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. In conjunction with specific building projects, he also designed a wide assortment of textiles, lighting fixtures, door handles, cutlery, tableware, clocks and other accessories that were awarded many prestigious accolades and can now be seen in design museums around the world.

The goal of totality

Arne Jacobsen’s goal was totality. He strived to create total concepts, whereby everything was designed with a common thread between the building, the furniture and other interior décor so that all parts were ‘in harmony’. As his portfolio of projects completed in this way grew, the quality of the products he designed became so highly regarded that, although they were developed for specific building projects, they had such universal application and appeal that they became part of standard production. The VOLA design is still popular today, inspiring bathroom and kitchen designs that ‘clean-up’ the aesthetics of these rooms.

As we continue to research and design our own range of interior design products that use local materials and complement our architectural projects, we will be inspired by the timeless, holistic approach that Jacobsen used so successfully.

Different types of metal casting

 

We design bespoke lighting for our clients and light fittings can be made from a range of metals, including brazed copper, brass, black mild steel and light mild steel. Currently, we are researching door handle design and manufacture (small scale – batches of ten or so) via casting metals in a foundry – liquid metal is poured into a mold that contains a hollow space of the required design, and is then left to cool and solidify – the solidified part is called a ‘casting’. In this short post, we explain the different types of metal casting and provide some brief information about foundries (factories that produce metal castings) in the UK.

metal-casting-bespoke-lighting

How does casting work?

The first stage of metal casting is to make a mold into the desired shape. A mold can be open or closed: in an open mold, the molten metal is poured directly into the mold cavity and the material is exposed to the air, like a cup. Closed molds are more common: the molten material flows into the mold via a short entrance cavity and the mold is closed off from the air. Metal is melted in a furnace before being poured into the mold, normally by automatic pouring machines. After being left to solidify, the metal component is removed from the mold, degated (any excess material is removed) and cleaned. The product is then ‘finished’, which usually involves grinding, sanding or machining to ensure the desired finish is achieved.

Some different types of casting

Molds can be expendable or permanent: an expendable mold is made of sand, plaster, or similar, and can only be used to produce one metal casting as the mold must be destroyed to remove the casting. A permanent mold can be used to make many castings as it is usually made of metal or a refractory ceramic, with sections that can open or close to allow the casting to be removed.

There are several different types of expendable mold casting. Sand casting is the most common, as almost all casting metals can be produced using this method. Sand castings can be any size and used to make a wide range of products, with another advantage being that sand is inexpensive. Plaster mold casting is a similar process to sand casting, with plaster of Paris used instead of sand to make the mold. Other types of expendable mold casting include: ceramic mold casting (allows materials to be cast at much higher temperatures); shell mold casting (particularly suited to steel castings); vacuum casting (also known as the V process, which uses sand with no moisture with the internal cavity of the mold held in shape using a vacuum); expanded polystyrene casting (a sand mold is packed around a polystyrene pattern); and investment casting (a wax pattern is coated with refractory ceramic material).

When working with permanent molds, ‘basic permanent mold casting’ is a term that describes all types of permanent molds. Sections of the mold are normally made from metal blocks that fit together, allowing them to be opened and closed easily and with accuracy. Although making the mold can be expensive, it may be used tens of thousands of times, making it suitable for products such as kitchenware.

Metal casting foundries in the UK

The majority of foundies in the UK are members of the Cast Metals Federation (CMF), the professional body representing and promoting the UK casting industry as a whole. The CMF website has a directory of foundries and suppliers.

More information about our recently completed bespoke lighting designs (door handle designs to be completed en breve): El Montovano Pendant; El Kiazim Wall Light; Christie Pendant Light.

Exploring Chailey Brick Factory

 

We recently attended a CPD tour organised by RIBA to the Ibstock brick factory in Chailey, near Lewes in Sussex. It was fascinating to see process of traditional stock brick manufacturing in one of the last remaining clamp-firing factories in Europe. We highly recommend a trip to the factory if you’re looking to source traditional stock bricks. This short post tells you a bit more about what we learned on our visit.

chailey-bricks

History

Clay products have been manufactured in Chailey for over 300 years, making it one of the oldest factories still in production in the UK. Its product range has changed over time and it now produces high quality, clamp-fired stock bricks and pavers with a range of colours and textures which give a unique charm. Bricks are known for being made in Chailey since the early 17th century. The current factory was built in 1946 in order to take advantage of modern production processes and the post-war building boom. The current owner, Ibstock Brick, acquired the site in 1996.

Making the bricks

At Chailey, weald clay is extracted from an onsite quarry behind the factory during the summer months. There are three different seams of clay in the quarry, all with different drying and firing characteristics. Clay is dug from a stockpile each day and fed into the factory, delivering a set amount of clay each hour. Clay is mixed with sand and pulverised fly ash, which help with the drying process, and with a blend of coke breezes, which is the fuel that fires the bricks. All the material is fed into a wet pan, where it is mixed and ground together and water is added. The material is forced through grids in the floor of the wet pan and onto a conveyor, after which it falls between two counter-rotating drums, with a gap of only 3mm between them. This is so that a small but consistent grade size is achieved.

The material is then mixed in a double-shafted mixer where two shafts churn the mix to ensure and smooth and workable consistency. The mix is then taken to a kettle where it is stored before being turned into bricks in a molding machine which is capable of making 12,000 bricks per hour. The excess clay is struck off before a palette is dropped onto the bottom of the bricks. Bricks are piled in stillages which are then put into the driers, where the bricks are dried over a 23 hour period. There are five dryers and each one holds 24,192 bricks. The temperature in the driers is slowly increased up to 110 degrees and approximately 17 tonnes of water is removed from the bricks.

The clamp

A clamp is ‘a carefully constructed stack of bricks’ in a large shed similar to a cowshed. Before going to the clamp, the dried bricks are inspected for defects and stacked into piles of 780 bricks (weighing 1.8 tonnes). These bricks are then laid on the floor of the clamp by hand by a setting team. Fire holes are built into the clamp before all the bricks are laid on top and the clamp is then covered in refractory insulation bricks and casing bricks which help to insulate the clamp during the firing process. Each clamp holds between 750,000 and 800,000 bricks and takes three weeks to build.

brick-clamp

Gas burners are used to ignite the fuel which was mixed into the body of the bricks during the clay preparation process. The bricks fire at over 1000 degrees centigrade and only start to cool down when all of the fuel has burnt out. The entire firing cycle takes three weeks. When the bricks have cooled sufficiently, the bricks are packed up by hand onto pallets by an eight man team. There is a strict sorting code and the bricks are sorted according to their quality and colour and then hand sorted into packs of 370 bricks. It takes approximately two weeks for the team to pack up a clamp.

clamp-full

The bricks

Chailey manufactures its range of distinctive bricks in both 65mm and 50 mm sizes and any of the bricks can be blended to create products to match up to existing brick work. Or, bespoke blends of bricks can be created. You can read more about the bricks made at Chailey on the Ibstock Brick website.

What is green infrastructure?

 

Our green spaces are under increasing pressure as the climate and population change. There is a continued demand for housing and, as a result, there has been a tendency to replace green areas in towns and cities with bricks and tarmac, particularly on driveways and in gardens. When it rains, increasingly heavy rainstorms land on smaller areas of permeable or well-drained ground, making roads and homes more prone to flooding than previously. ‘Green infrastructure’ is a term used to describe all of the green spaces in and around towns and cities. This might include parks, private gardens, agricultural fields, hedges, trees, woodland, rivers and ponds. In this post, we explain the concept in a little more detail and share some examples of green infrastructure projects in London.

green-infrastructure

Development of the term

‘Green infrastructure’ is a description of what the land is, but it also describes what the land does. The term reflects a growth in understanding of the various benefits that are to be gained from providing and maintaining healthy green spaces: reducing flood risk; improving psychological health and well-being; boosting local economic regeneration, and providing a habitat for wildlife. Rather than valuing green spaces for a specific use (e.g. a football field for recreational purposes), green infrastructure recognises that green space can provide a variety of functions, often at the same time.

Green infrastructure in England

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) defines green infrastructure as “a network of multi-functional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities”. The NPPF places the responsibility with local authorities to plan strategic green infrastructure networks, particularly to reduce the risks associated with climate change. Places where there is limited access to green space is also prioritised, as is the inclusion of green infrastructure in major development and regeneration schemes.

Green infrastructure in London

The All London Green Grid (ALGG) promotes green infrastructure across London. While London is already a very green city, with an existing park and green space network that functions well for recreational purposes, there is growing recognition of the need to plan, design and manage green spaces to provide additional benefits. Similarly, the London Infrastructure Plan 2050 emphasises that green infrastructure is as important for the city as other infrastructure such as roads and railway lines.

Recent green infrastructure projects in north and west London include the London Wildlife Trust’s new 11 hectare nature reserve, Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington, which opened to the public earlier this year, and a new interactive map that allows you to explore the ‘Wild West End‘ of the capital. The aim of this project is to create a network of green spaces and green roofs between the major parks in the West End of London.

To learn more about green infrastructure and other local and national projects, visit the Green Infrastructure Partnership website.

Permitted Development Rights III: Other projects

 

Our last two posts have covered Permitted Development Rights (PDR) in general, and house extensions under PDR in particular. In the final post in this short series, we consider some other types of projects that fall under PDR and do not require planning permission, and provide you with some information about the rules that you should be aware of. Specifically, we cover additions/alterations to the roof of a house, porches and other outbuildings or structures that you may wish to add.

Permitted Development Rights III

Making changes to your roof

Unless you live in a protected area and/or your house is listed, you can add to or change the side and back of your roof without requiring planning permission. You may wish to convert the loft and add dormer windows, or carry out alterations such as re-roofing or installing roof lights and/or windows.

As far as practicable, additions to the roof need to be at least 20cm above the original eaves, and no higher than the highest part of your house. It is possible to add up to 50 cubic metres to the original roof space (although this figure falls to 40 cubic metres for terraced houses). It is not possible to add a veranda, balcony, or any other type of raised platform. Similar to house extensions under PDR, the materials you use should be ‘similar’ to the materials on your existing roof.

Adding a porch

You can add a porch to your property that is up to 3 metres high and with a maximum area of 3 square metres. If the porch faces the road (which is often the case), it should be at least 2 metres from the edge of your plot.

Other buildings/structures

Under PDR, you can build any independent structure on your plot to the side and back of your house, as long as it is not another house or has more than one storey. For example, you may wish to add an outdoor office shed, a swimming pool, an animal pen or a heating tank.

The additional structure(s) may take up to half of the plot that is not taken up by the ‘original’ house (note that ‘original’ means the house as it was first built, or as it stood on 1 July 1948, if it was built prior to that date). The structure can be up to 3 metres in height. However, if the structure is within 2 metres of the house, the maximum height is reduced to 2.5 metres. If the structure has a double-pitched roof, a maximum of 4 metres in height is permitted.

As with roof alterations, your structure may not have a veranda, balcony or raised platform, and you will need planning permission if your house is listed or, in some cases, if you live in a protected area. Antennae are also not allowed on the structure.

You can read more detailed guidance about PDR for these types of projects (as well as adding hard surfaces to your plot and/or altering the chimneys and flues on your property) in the Householder Technical Guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Note that the guidance applies to England and Wales and separate PDR guidance can be referred to for projects in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Permitted Development Rights II: House extensions

 

An extension or addition to your home is something that you can do under ‘Permitted Development Rights’ (PDR), meaning that you do not need to apply for planning permission to undertake the work (see the general introduction to PDR in our last post). There are, however, certain limits and conditions that you need to be aware of and we cover some of those in this post.

Permitted Development Rights II

For all types of extension, no more than 50% of the area of land around the ‘original house’ can be covered by the addition (bear in mind that ‘original house’ means the house as it was first built, or as it stood on 1 July 1948, if it was built before then). You will need to check whether a previous owner added an extension as this is included in the calculation, as are sheds and any other outbuildings.

Single-storey extensions

For single-storey extensions, if the project is completed by 30 May 2019, the rear wall of a detached home can be extended by up eight metres. If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house, this is reduced to six metres. These upper limits have been temporarily increased and if you extend more than four metres beyond the rear wall (detached) or three metres (semi-detached/terraced), you will need to go through the Neighbour Consultation Scheme to notify the local planning authority of your intention to use PDR in this case.

Under PDR, the extension must not be to the front or side of the building (if it is, it requires planning permission). The materials used in the extension should be similar in appearance to those on the exterior of the rest of the house, and the extension must not exceed four metres in height.

Double-storey extensions

For higher extensions of more than one storey, the addition can be no higher than the existing house and it may not extend more than three metres beyond the rear wall. You will also need seven metres between any boundary opposite the rear wall of the house. As with single-storey extensions under PDR, the materials you use must be similar to the existing house, and there are some additional rules about upper floor/roof windows.

Other points to bear in mind

The permitted development allowances that we have described in this post apply to houses in England only. If you are seeking to alter or extend a flat/maisonette, a converted house (or a house created through the PDR to change use), other buildings, or your house is in an area where there may be a planning condition (e.g. protected/designated area), you will need to check separate guidance and rules with your local authority. Some local authorities are able to confirm in writing (for a small fee) whether or not a planning application is necessary. Most extensions still require approval under Building Regulations.

You can read more detailed guidance on the Department for Communities and Local Government Planning Portal, or contact us for advice about a project you are considering.

Permitted Development Rights I: An overview

 

Not too long ago, the UK planning system was overloaded with minor applications for household extensions and other changes, causing a backlog of paperwork and considerable pressure on the limited resources of local planning authorities. The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order, most recently amended by the UK Government in 2016, includes a range of available ‘Permitted Development Rights’, which aim to reduce the number of minor applications by widening the definition of what can be built without requiring planning permission. In the first of a short series of posts explaining Permitted Development Rights in England, we look at the current legislation and give some examples of the types of projects that fall within Permitted Development Rights.

Permitted Development Rights I

What are Permitted Development Rights?

Permitted Development Rights are a national grant of planning permission which allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without making a planning application (Government Planning Practice Guidance). It is likely that your home will benefit from Permitted Development Rights, unless you live in a protected area (e.g. conservation area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, etc.). In London, where homeowners can be hesitant to move, and more and more people are working from home, Permitted Development Rights have led to lots of self-build extensions popping up across the capital. A common example in Victorian and Edwardian properties is the L-shaped dormer, which does not require planning permission if designed within certain parameters.

Are there limits to what can be done using Permitted Development Rights?

In order to carry out work on your property under Permitted Development Rights, you must ensure that the work conforms to the current criteria, which are not always easy to decipher. The rules can be unclear, difficult to understand and open to interpretation. For example, the Permitted Development Rights that apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes and other dwellings. It is also worth bearing in mind that commercial properties have different rights to residential properties. Checking details with the planning department of your local authority before carrying out the works, or working with a qualified surveyor or architect can be a wise investment of time and money. They will be able to advise you of any reason why your proposed project may not be permitted, and if you need to apply for planning permission for all/part of the work. At times, the local authority may have removed one or more of your Permitted Development Rights (issuing an ‘Article 4′ direction), in which case you may need to submit a planning application for a project that, in other areas, may not require it. There may also be the need to carry out neighbour consultation, if you are in an area where this applies.

What sort of projects can I undertake using Permitted Development Rights?

There are a range of home improvements that you can make using Permitted Development Rights. More simple examples include: building a porch, carrying out internal alterations, installing micro-generation equipment such as solar panels, and installing satellite dishes. More complex projects include: converting the loft space, inserting rooflights or dormer extensions, installing new doors and/or windows on the rear elevation of your home, and extending the back of your home.

All of these projects would be subject to design rules and we will look at the rules surrounding Permitted Development Rights and home extensions in our next post.

Restaurant design: Oklava, London

 

We recently designed the critically acclaimed Oklava restaurant in Shoreditch, East London. Chef Selin Kiazim serves contemporary Turkish cuisine and was widely praised for her ‘pop-ups’ at Carousel London in November 2014 and before that a residency at Trip Kitchen in Haggerston. We worked with Selin and Oklava Director Laura Christie in 2015 to remodel the ground floor of the existing former four-storey mill building on Luke Street to house a new restaurant, bar and private dining facilities.

Oklava restaurant design

Frontage

Oklava (the word in Turkish for a traditional rolling pin used to make bread, pastries and pides) is situated in the South Shoreditch Conservation Area. The materials, colour and configuration of the outside of the restaurant were designed to match the colour and shape of the existing windows on the upper floors and remain in keeping with the character of the building. Awnings over the external windows make the street a part of the restaurant and create a space for outdoor eating on warmer days.

Style

The restaurant is focussed around communal eating and encouraging conversations about food by sharing dishes between diners. With this in mind, the unique, trapezoidal space has a central focus of an under-lit bar table, one of which allows diners to feel part of the drama of watching their meals being prepared as they socialise and sample the delicacies on offer. Movable tables are placed in the space between the bars, allowing for flexibility for different table configurations.

Materials

The concept was to create a contemporary, timeless aesthetic. A stone oven and a real charcoal grill, known in Turkish as a ‘mangal’, are the two key cooking elements of the open kitchen. The drama of the open kitchen is framed by a under-lit heavyweight concrete clad bar with walnut worktop and lightweight suspended Black Mild Steel shelving. On entering you are greeted with a Black Mild Steel screen designed to restrict views through reclaimed copper-framed windows housed within, creating a sense of intrigue of the activity beyond. The reflectivity of the polished concrete floor animates the restaurant, reflecting the light from the bespoke designed copper pendant and black mild steel wall lights.

Bespoke features

Aiming to “pull Turkish cuisine out of the kebab shop and onto the London restaurant scene“, the restaurant has subtle lighting and an “aura of smart taste” (Tim Hayward, Financial Times). Bespoke lighting was designed, including Christie pendant lights made from brazed copper pipe to light up the movable tables.

Bespoke lighting design LondonOklava lighting London

Read more about the remodelling of Oklava and see more images on the Oklava project page. We are currently working on other restaurant projects and welcome new enquiries.

L-shaped dormer explained

 

Converting your loft can be good value for money when improving your home and increasing your living space. An L-shaped dormer loft conversion can be a good option for creating more room at the top of your home. Popular on period, terraced properties, this type of loft conversion creates a lot of space, usually adding at least a couple of rooms to your property. In this post, we give you a bit more information about what is involved in this type of conversion.

RISE Design Studio L-shaped Dormer

What does ‘dormer’ mean?

A ‘dormer’ loft conversion is a structural extension that projects vertically from the plane of a sloping roof. An L-shaped dormer typically involves constructing two dormers – one sits on the main body of the house and the other then extends out over the rear addition of the property. The dormers meet to create the ‘L’ shape. This type of conversion is most suited to Victorian and Edwardian properties that tend to have the kitchen and bathroom at the rear. An advantage of the L-shaped conversion is that you are able to replicate your first floor in terms of space and design.

Planning

Under Permitted Development Rights (introduced in 2008 by the Department of Communities and Local Government), you typically do not need to have planning permission to build a loft extension on a house if the extension is adding less than 50 cubic metres of new space to the property (and less than 40 cubic metres if the house is a terrace). However, there are some cases when you will need planning permission and it is wise to double check the requirements with your local authority before starting your project. For example, you will need planning permission if the side of your house with the conversion faces the road or if your house is in a designated area (e.g. conservation area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, etc.). The conversion will still need Building Regulations approval and it is worth having an approved design before you start work.

Design and construction

On first glance, L-shaped dormers appear to have a flat roof. Instead, they tend to be built with a 1:50 fall to the side to ensure that water does not pool on the roof of the loft. To make the extension look less ‘top-heavy’, it is common to step the sides of the dormer slightly and create a small border around the edge of the structure, blending in with the existing slope of the roof. There are several other technical considerations to take into account during design and construction. For example, you will need to consider fire precautions and escape windows, ventilation measures (especially if the extension includes a bathroom or shower room), thermal and sound insulation of the new structure, and how you are going to supply electrics and heat to the new space. Investing in a good design will ensure that your extension adds to the ‘look and feel’ of the original property, rather than detracting from it.

What is retrofit?

 

The 2008 Climate Change Act committed the UK to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050 (against the 1990 baseline). The buildings sector accounts for 37% of total UK GHG emissions and, of these emissions, 65% are from the residential sector. With this in mind, there has been growth in the residential retrofit industry, whereby buildings are adapted to become more sustainable and energy-efficient, while in the non-domestic market, retrofit can often be part of a larger refurbishment project. The majority of our existing residential and commercial stock requires some level of retrofit to enable the government’s ambitious emissions targets to be reached. In this post, we look at some of the methods available for retrofit and consider the role of architects in the retrofit of existing buildings.

retrofit living spaces

Making homes more energy-efficient

A study in conducted in 2014 estimated that 40 million houses in the EU would have to be retrofitted by 2020 if the reduction of emissions is to stay on track. In general, retrofitting involves the use of new technologies and materials within the home, to increase energy efficiency. A popular and simple example is improving insulation. A new heating system might also be installed, or double glazing might be fitted. There is also the option to carry out a Passivhaus retrofit. Although it is more difficult to reach the exact requirements of the Passivhaus standard in a retrofit project, the Passivhaus Institut has developed the EnerPHit standard for projects that use the Passivhaus method to reduce fuel bills and heating demand.

High performance buildings

Conserving energy is not the only reason to retrofit a building. Improving indoor environmental quality, reducing dampness and mould will all lead to increased health and productivity levels of the building’s users (read more on our blog about sustainable architecture principles that improve health). A retrofit project also presents the opportunity to reassess the accessibility, safety and security of a building.

The role of the architect

Retrofitting the home to increase energy efficiency can have significant architectural implications for the interior/exterior of houses. Modern architects are well-placed to add creativity and innovation into the drive to retrofit existing housing stock, particularly those that may prove very expensive to retrofit. For example, historic buildings such as Edwardian terraces are protected, and increasing energy efficiency can pose a real challenge. There are exciting options to retain the facade and rebuild the living spaces within the building. Because architects have an overview of the whole build process, they tend to be well-placed to act as a lead co-ordinator in retrofit projects. If you are keen to implement the Passivhaus method, you are likely to need planning permission as the work may require external insulation or changes to the roof, for example. Again, an architect can help with this.