The practice recently obtained planning for the following bungalow modernisation + refurbishment in Southgate near Swansea, South Wales.
“The purpose of Architecture is to improve human life. Create timeless, free, joyous spaces for all activities in life” John Lautner Architect
As a design studio we have always been interested in the humble and often understated typology of the bungalow. Having recently cycled from Rotterdam to Switzerland we came across so many different variants of these homes dotted around the Danish, German and French landscape.
Although low in density they have become common building types often found on the edge of suburbia or isolated within the landscape. The obvious appeal of the bungalow mostly with the elderly is the convenience of all living areas on one floor and the lack of stairs.
It seems almost an oversimplification to write this – but almost all of these homes experienced along our route expressed for us a common theme of dwelling. Of homes that were humble, fairly small and expressed a feeling of being ‘lived in’ and generally loved by their owners.
Serendipitously and upon our return to our studio in early February we were approached to refurbish a tired Bungalow. The home had been purchased by a small young family wishing to renovate and retrofit the existing envelope.
Upon accepting the commission we were eager to re-visit and investigate various themes we had discussed in Germany and the Netherlands and importantly gain an understanding of our clients day to day lives.
What impressed us about those small homes seen in the North of Europe was their simplicity, large fixed windows for light and views and a self confidence expressed through sharp detailing. Yet with our new commission we were presented with a building that had been added to and reformed in such a way over the decades – it was hard to see the strength of the original building.
After investigating the etymology of the ‘Bungalow’ we found that this simple detached low-rise form is familiar the world over. Apparently the term originated in India:
An article on Wikipedia reads…
“Deriving from the Gujarati બંગલો baṅgalo, which in turn derives from Hindi बंगला baṅglā, meaning “Bengali” and used elliptically for a “house in the Bengal style”. Such houses were traditionally small, only one storey and detached, and had a wide veranda.
The term was first found in English from 1696, where it was used to describe “bungales or hovells” in India for English sailors of the East India Company,
Later it became used for the spacious homes or official lodgings of officials of the British Raj, and was so known in Britain and later America, where it initially had high status and exotic connotations, and began to be used in the late 19th century for large country or suburban houses built in an Arts and Crafts or other Western vernacular style – essentially as large cottages, a term also sometimes used. Later developers began to use the term for smaller houses.”
During our first site visit to the property we were struck by the large window openings to the living room and a fairly pragmatic plan.
Our strategy from the outset was to reinforce the connection between the South facing living room as it followed the sun during the day and the Kitchen facing the rear garden to the North, with its consistent light reflected from the dome of the sky.
We proposed removing most of the interior walls in the living spaces while creating intimate rooms in other areas and removing all the visual noise of plastic pipes fascia’s and guttering. Replacing these with ‘real’ materials such as timber, aluminium and concrete.
The main roof structure would be replaced and the entrance hall exposed to the ridge with a bridge connecting a guest room and children’s bedrooms. The master bedroom and en-suite would then extend to the rear over the newly formed ground floor snug. A place to gather and be warm yet close to nature.
We also introduced the ‘Bengal’ veranda to the front elevation which would also begin to ‘stitch the individual elements together into a single composition that would function as a rain canopy and entrance porch to both the front door and garage.
The new home is currently under construction and will be retrofitted with PV’s to the main front roof. Brick cavities will be insulated and a whole house underfloor heating system and insulation will be installed. Reducing significantly our clients heating and electric bills, not to mention the overall reduction in the homes C02 emissions.