Final Major Project Underway

I am now in my third year at Uni, (time has flown by so fast, I cannot quite believe it), and I am now working on my FMP. The site I chose to design is the Arnolfini mixed use building in Bristol, and I am re-imagining it as a new Art Gallery, using all of the space and reconfiguring the internal floors and roof areas.

This has been a really intense project so far, the scale of the building is vast and there are so many elements to consider. I made a sort of shopping list to remind myself of what I need to do / add/ remove and it grows daily as I work through the project.

My inspiration for the design comes from several areas; the building is set on the edge of the floating harbour and I loved the reflections of it in the water. From these I have designed panels and balustrading to use in the site.

The stonework on the building is beautiful, they have what is called vermicular rustication on the stone and I love the way the light plays on it. Taking negative shadows from the stone I have cast light through them. These also influenced the balustrading patterns.

The building was built originally to store tea in the booming trade in the 1830’s and which was expected to be stored in Bristol, but by the time it was completed, the tea trade had moved to London. Known as Bush House, the site became an iron foundry and then a bonded warehouse. Research into this trade has given me lots of ideas, especially using the pattern of shipping lines used for the original intention of Bush House.

Tea Trade Route Lines

These lines will be manipulated into design ideas within the site.

I have had some great finds in my research, done a poll with local residents and had interviews with curator/gallery head experts like Sir Nicholas Serota, Sir Nicholas Penny & Patrick Elliot who have helped me realise what is needed in such a large gallery to make it successful. I will post more as I go…

Hospitality Design

Over the past several months I have been designing holiday accommodation aimed at the luxury end of the market – far beyond glamping, these buildings are intended for those who want the very best on their getaway breaks. They are about to go into production, and I am so excited to be able to share them here.

HOW?

I sort of fell into this whole scenario by accident. Initially I was asked to design the interiors by the development and manufacturing companies involved, but I ended up designing the entire buildings as they liked my ideas and encouraged me to do them. I also agreed initially to work on them as they are made from carbon neutral materials – using amazing new technology and products to recycle and reuse materials. I am passionate about sustainable design, and so this really piqued my interest. I was also challenged to create a design that would be fabricated off-site, and then shipped in to construct so as to avoid as much disruption to the landowners as possible. They can be totally off-grid; water, power and waste can all be managed in a sustainable way as well. What’s not to love?!

Once the designs are done, a structural engineer and the manufacturing company take over to make sure they are fit for purpose and fulfilling all building regulations. Although I am a designer, I am not a qualified architect so these measures are 100% necessary. We have an amazing alternative to standard foundations, these buildings sit on what basically look like huge screws. These are embedded in the ground, and can go near tree roots, on uneven ground, into a lake bed and so on.

THE DESIGNS

I designed 3 different houses based on natural shapes – The Seed, The Poppy & The Bud. They comprise of an octagonal inner house wrapped in an external skeleton of curved, linear struts which embrace the inner house. The sizes and configurations vary, offering choice to the customer in terms of scale, site and cost. They are raised above the ground to elevate the views, two have roof terraces, and the other had an internal balcony so that you can be above the canopy to take full advantage of the views and location.

THE DETAIL

We also commissioned some fly-through videos to show how the designs look in place, although I had built them in 3D I needed some superior rendering and animation skills to really bring them to life – they look amazing.

With the whole Covid scenario, the desire for holidays in the UK has really changed, and these are perfect for staycations when set in beautiful landscapes and woodlands. The company has had amazing feedback for them, and orders are coming in. I have to pinch myself occasionally from what started as a doodle in a meeting (below) to the realisation of the final product.

The starting point….

Restaurant Design

During the lockdown I was asked to design a restaurant for a new development being built in SE London – a luxury destination restaurant spread across 4 floor and with astounding views across the city which are crying out to be celebrated.  The local area has a rich history which was reflected in the design elements such as metalwork, glass and other materials.

Each level has a coherent design which changes and morphs slightly as the guests rise through the building.  There are wide-open and then more intimate spaces to choose from as areas to dine in.  Roof terraces mean cocktails can be enjoyed whilst taking in the views.  The site is one of the highest in London, so you can literally see for miles.

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The site has a basement kitchen and service area, plus a ground floor area which is a smart cafe in the day and a welcoming pre-dinner drink bar area for the restaurant at night.

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This ground floor space has a lift which take the guests to another level (in many respects…)

CAGE LIFT AREA NIGHT

Guests exit the lift on the 3rd floor, into the first part of the main restaurant with views straight ahead across SW London and a terrace.

Final day looking south level 3 copyFinal Night Level 3 look south copy

From this level a bespoke staircase leads up the 4th floor.

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The 4th floor has 360 degrees views around London and is walled entirely in glass.  To the East the views are of the City of London with landmarks such as the Shard illuminated at night.

SOUTH STRAIGHT no walking lady

By day, this area of the restaurant has a retracting roof, so good weather can be enjoyed under a protective canopy which creates beautiful shadow patterns.

the light!

In the central area of this floor are private dining pods with living walls and light portals to enjoy the stars at night overhead.

green wall

The plans are to use the restaurant for notable chefs to take residencies, creating a gourmet destination for guests set in luxurious surroundings.

Working on student designs in isolation

The recent outbreak and isolation strategies have made it possible to work in my own studio in my home for the current University project.  I am designing a new site for the restaurant Box-E in Bristol, to include a light fitting design with a prototype model.   We wearer supposed to be having a big Crit this coming Tuesday, but now I think it will have to be virtual instead.  Although the latter part of the project is simply not possible without the fabrication facilities at my University, I have managed to get on with the rest of the work thanks to my trusty (but quite slow) Mac and subscriptions to programs like Autocad, Adobe, Sketchup and VRay.  The student rates for subscriptions make it just about affordable to use these programs, and if not there is always paper, a scale ruler and a pencil -a reversion to the old ways of designing before computers were invented.

The pro’s of this current situation are that I am not wasting 3 hours a day travelling to and from University.  It should only take 40 minutes as the bird flies, but I meet up with all commuter traffic usually, so spend a lot of time sat in jams.  This is not all negative as I have a clear ‘thinking’ time, which has got to be good for my mindfulness and wellbeing  – as long as I don’t get road rage…  Plus I get to listen to lots of music and podcasts thanks to Spotify and BBC Sounds, so I can arrive at my destination bursting with information and inspiration.  But I am also finding that being at home and not travelling this week makes these 3 hours really count as productive time.

Another pro is that I can set my computer to render whenever I want, especially overnight without worrying that I am hogging a machine from other students.  I also don’t have to pack a huge amount of bags every morning with all manner of equipment that I ‘might’ need, lug large portfolios or make a packed lunch.

The con’s are that I cannot use the amazing facilities at University at the moment, especially Fabrication where I can get messy and experiment with making things.  The technicians are really helpful and so full of skills, and as I have done a lot of the induction training on machines I can normally just get on with making samples, trying new things etc.  I also miss the  extensive library where there are a lot of magazines, periodicals and books on interiors and architecture to browse, the internet is great for information but it’s too easy to scroll and miss something compared to looking at a book in hand.

Also,  I have developed a bad habit of not really bothering to get dressed straight away now that I am stuck at home.  I have answered the door twice this week to delivery men, had a 2 meter chat with neighbours over the fence, and taken out the bins, all whilst clad in my dressing gown and at around 4pm.  Mental note: must try harder….

But in spite of all of the craziness of this week, I have still managed to build my final scale model, finish my autocad and sketchup designs, create visualisations and organise my samples.  My A1 boards are done and were ready to be printed tomorrow, (now to be electronic), and I also made a start on other Uni work such as my portfolio.

Considering that I am also working 2 days a week (also now from home), being a mum, feeding the family, doing the laundry, cleaning, gardening and running a house… I think I am doing OK!  Maybe I deserve the pyjamas and dressing gown scenario after all.

 

Concrete Light Portal Brick System

I investigated concrete as a material for my Dom-Ino house project.  I wanted to create a wall of bricks which created a clear boundary for a stairwell of a house sunk into the ground, but also which allowed light to enter the space and create interesting moving patterns and reflections on internal mirrored stainless steel walls.

I experimented with making voids in concrete brick shaped blocks.  I used squares and circles as the void shapes, which were a reference to my client who frequently uses geometry in his work.  The concrete was made from a variety of mixes using dyes.  A red tone was added to lessen the industrial grey of standard concrete, and help the wall blend into the surrounding rock face.  I found a concrete which uses 70% of slag furnace waste instead of Portland lime, which is far more ecologically practical than standard mixes.

I experimented with embedding materials into the concrete; ground glass, recycled plastics and metal.

On some models I used mirror internally to see if that would reflect light even more, but it was removed in the end in case it created extra strong light beams that might start a fire.

 

A scale model shows how the wall would behave, with strong light shapes moving through the voids as light is moved around the bricks.

Visualisations of how the wall would work in practice:

STAIRS and woman

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Hempcrete

Recently I have been experimenting with Hempcrete as a sustainable wall panel system for my Dom-Into house project. It is very simple to make, has great thermal properties and allows a building to breathe.

 

Hempcrete primarily is used in wall, floor (slab), render/plaster and roofs. In a roof, insulation is an important aspect so low density (light weight) is used, whereas for additional structural strength, high density hempcrete (low thermal insulation) is used in floors. Natural breathable finishing (lime render and plaster and mineral based paints) are commonly used in hempcrete walls. However, if cladding is used, a breathable one with vented air gap in between the wall and cladding is better. Lime-hemp plasters and Hemp-fiber quilt insulation are other uses of hemp in construction industry.  In my Dom-Ino house I investigated usuing hempcrete for insulation to floor slabs and ceilings.

I used just hemp shiv, lime and water. The frames and base were made from MDF. The Mixture is easy to do, just weigh the dry ingredients and mix very thoroughly, then add the water and again mix very well. Use a mask, gloves and eye protectors when you are doing the mixing as the lime is toxic and can burn your skin/eyes/lungs.

 

Once it is mixed, add into moulds and tamp it down firmly, and then leave to dry. It takes 12 hours to dry out these brick sizes shapes.

MAKING HEMP MIX:

I made 3 batches of hemp mixture using different ratios of lime to shiv to water – the graphic above has the ratios needed, and the binder is pure hydraulic lime.  

Batch 1 was the best consistency – heavy but strong and not crumbly.

Batch 2 mixed cork granules with the shiv to see if I could create a lighter weight to the mix.  This was successful, but I think the lime mortar ratio could be upped to bind it better.

Batch 3 was very crumbly and loose and not a strong material for construction.

The results were really good, with the bricks being lightweight and strong. For houses, larger panels tend to be made by using shuttering and then by strongly tamping down the mixture.

Dom-Ino House Project

 

wide with antique backgroundThis brief was to design a second home for the installation artist Olafur Eliasson.  The site is situated at the top of a tranquil gully in the Avon Gorge with a steep drop off, and amazing views down to the River Avon.  Having lived in and around Bristol for many years, I had no idea that this secret place existed, and took the theme of secrecy as a key inspiration for the project.  The house architecturally is based on Le Corbusier’s Dom-Ino house structure – slab walls, pilotis columns and a staircase.  This allows for multiple choices as to where walls and windows can be placed.

final elevation 1 tinted vs 2

My client is known for his works with light, colour and creating new perceptions of views, so this was all considered in the design of the home.  I wanted to create a space for him that is a live/work studio, with distinctive private and public spaces.  Eliasson is half Icelandic, so this is referenced as well in the use of turf on the roof of the house – a nod to the ancient Icelandic buried hill houses.

Post Crit front house with shadows fade out white copy 2

The design embeds the house into the cliff, so that from the northern approach you do not even know there is a house there.  It is only when you are standing on top of the roof that you realise there is a staircase descending into the house.  There is a 1m meter space around the house within the carved out space in the cliff,  so it lets light fall from pierced walkways above and feed natural light into the house.

house sunk in hill 1 smaller file

My client is passionate about ecology and sustainability, so external building materials used in the house include rammed earth walls, hempcrete, recycled glass and turf.  Then structure is concrete, but uses the most ecologically available mixture made from 70% recycled slag furnace waste.

The entrance into the house is by moving down the stairwell, these have a pierced wall system designed to create spots of light in the sunshine which move across the space as the sun moves overhead.  Mirrored stainless steel walls create strong reflections and further bounce light through the stairwell.

STAIRS and woman

The studio space is on the first floor and is open plan, with a kitchen area concealed behind sliding doors.  A ceiling grid allows for maquettes to be hung up out of the way.  The furniture is all on castors so the room can be reconfigured as an office / studio / dining room /exhibition space.  An oculus window was designed to distort the view looking in and out into the gully.  Along the mainly glazed south facing wall are a system of internal glass sliding panels in colours which can be moved to create new perspectives and views of the valley beyond.

Studio Visualisation

oculus lite

The floor below is a personal space for my client where he can relax and sleep.  A large balcony creates an exterior entertaining space with a system of textural glass screens.  The interior is a neutral and calm space with natural textures.  A fireplace pierces the wall so it can be accessed both inside and outside.

SITTING ROOM BEST SMALLER copybedroom BEST copy SMALLER

The final level is a secret place that only my client can access. An internal jib door is concealed behind a bookcase, and opens to reveal stairs leading to a sub level.  This is open air, but protected from wind and rain by the house above it.  Pilotis were raised to 2m to create this space.  Here my client has an outdoor kitchen, decks, a dance floor (he was the Swedish champion in breakdancing for 2 years running!), and a luxurious wood fired Swedish hot tub so he can use it all year round and enjoy the views.

house front very paled out copy low res

Finished Model-ALL PLANS

This project entailed the learning of CAD for the first time, and material testing with fabrication of glass, concrete, hempcrete and rammed earth samples.

 

 

Autumn Fair 2019

This week I visited the NEC for The Autumn Fair, which is an exhibition for buyers covering homeware, gifts, fashion, retails solutions, home decor and more.

HOME DECOR

It is a vast space and was packed with exhibitors from across the globe.  There was colour trend forecasting also on offer, with 4 distinct trends and co-ordinating colour palettes – Dome, Scarcity, Gorge and Ritual were the themes:

Moving through the exhibition, in which there were literally hundreds of stalls, the next stop was home decor and lighting.  There were some lovely companies showing.  Coach House were particularly elegant and had a wide range of styles with a strong emphasis in oversized lighting:

I discovered a new brand called One World, and love their oversized furniture and accessories:

Plus I found a fantastic lighting company called Light & Living from the Netherlands, featured below.  Every light was beautiful, and I love the mesh pendants (which incidentally a lot of brands featured so they will be a big thing in 2020).  Their lights were beautiful, although very heavy so the practical designer in me popped out as I pondered the way to hang them safely on a standard British light fitting..

So looking at trends for 2020 home decor, colour is definitely creeping back in, even if the sophisticated greys/blush combos and Hygge remain popular.  I am really happy to see some colour after years of pale greys though….

SUSTAINABILITY

On another positive note, there was a large emphasis from exhibitors on sustainability.  I spent ages talking to a Chinese manufacturer from the Shaoneng Group about their products made from sugar cane and bamboo waste pulp.  They apply it to disposable food retail products, but it could also apply to many other home items.  It is biodegradable, water and oil proof and much more.  A wonderful product, especially for take aways and similar food outlets.

xunhuan

So definitely an interesting place to visit and see what is on offer, how it is made and what some companies are doing to help sustainability and recycling.  This month I also will be visiting 100% Design & The London Design Fair, so watch this space for more ramblings…

How a pot of paint can cause chaos…

In the last couple of weeks I decided to repaint my sitting room.  It has been the same colour for ages, and I felt an update was in order.  I am getting very drawn to orange at the moment, and as the room has a lot of light and high ceilings, I felt that it could take a dark tone and create a different feel to the existing colour.  This is the room as it was…

It was originally painted in Drab, a now discontinued Farrow & Ball paint.  I chose a strong orange by Valspar called Storybook Sundown to replace it.  I have orange elsewhere in the room in the rug, upholstery and cushions and this colour complimented them the best…

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So with 5 litres I started to paint.  You  know that moment when you think ‘Hmm, not sure if I am liking this…?”, well it came pretty soon after the first coat.  I have been so used to the previous colour and this is so out of my comfort zone that I started to to think I had made a mistake.  But I decided to continue to see what would happen.

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BUT… once it was done I loved it.  Really vibrant, rich and cocooning.

Now this is where the chaos started… when I say chaos I mean a nuclear chain of events starting from the initial one pot of paint.   My sofa now looked really insipid against all of the other bright colours.  The room needed something stronger/darker in colour/tone to work with these walls.  The current sofa is a Wesley Barrell Knole, and cost a huge amount when purchased.  It is quite tired now and has been an old faithful for over a decade, so I thought this would be the time to revamp it.  Investigations into re-upholstering it revealed it costs as much if not more to do as getting a new sofa.  The seat cushions alone cost £500 for new inserts, not to mention 15m of fabric and upholstery costs.

Egged on by my daughter we set out to find a new sofa.  On my wish list the main priority was NEVER HAVING TO EVER PLUMP ANOTHER CUSHION AGAIN.  This has been the bane of my life with sofas, and actually if I add the hours spent doing it I could have learnt a new language or trekked across a country instead.  So number one priority was a sprung seat and back sofa.

Research then ensued; size, shape, fabric, finish, durability… The internet is great for hunting, but I want to see them in the flesh too and sit on them to see if they are comfortable.  A bit like Goldilocks and her chairs – too firm, too soft or just right?  A sofa is a big expense as well, so once a shortlist had been made we set off in the car on a sofa bouncing mission.

Stop one was a high street store that had not been on my wish list, but was on the way to another shop.  As we mooched about I spotted the perfect sofa; sprung, buttoned and available in the fabric I wanted. It was in DFS, is called the Trafalgar and is a modern version of the chesterfield with buttoned seat and back, plus proper springing.  The shape is more angular than the traditional rounded chesterfield but that is why it looks so nice.

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The detailing is lovely, with upholstery studs along the front:

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But this colour is too pale and I wanted a richer more textural fabric.  And voila, in their books I found:

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The perfect velvet; not shiny like a lot of modern versions but lustrous and deepest black.  And so reader, I ordered one.. and it comes in about 6 weeks to reface the old faithful Knole sofa (which incidentally is going to a very good home where it will be loved  for many more years).

So that was Chaos Element No 1.  This pot of paint has now cost me a new sofa.. but it doesn’t end there.  I like the idea of adding in more black to define the room, so black lampshades have now been ordered for the lamps around the room in black, and passementerie trimmings have been ordered to jazz them up.  That’s Chaos Element No 2.

On top of that I have now started hunting for new curtains to add more drama and tie up the room visually as the current ones are lovely, but look quite pale now compared to the other colours going on in the room, and that’s a 10ft tall bay window to negotiate as a starter.  Not something you can use readymades on easily… so let’s call that Chaos Element No 3.  I’m thinking watered black silk puddling on the floor would be a bit special…

With that I will sign off, as I need to plan how to create these curtains on a budget, but so they don’t look it.  All this from just one pot of paint…