Over the last few months France house has been gathering momentum on a wooded hill in South Wales. We thought we would publish a few photos on the development of the project to date and share some of the conceptual ideas behind our work.
As lecturers and researchers as well as practicing architects, France House develops ideas in relation to what we would identify as a form of ‘critical regionalism’. The project allows the practice to explore the ontological value of ‘being in the world’ and dwelling within it ‘authentically’ in a region and climate with high levels of precipitation.
The idea behind the home is quite simple, that it play to the local environment, in response to the fundamental human desire for an authentic experience of living in harmony with the natural world around us.
The first move – eating into the hillside. The dry summer earth is cleared ready for a new home.
Steel reinforcement tie bars will be ‘stitched’ together to reinforce the concrete walls.
The ground floor slab is cast, the reinforcement bars now woven together await the concrete pour.
The retaining walls are poured. The set out of the ties and the formwork on this wall will be hidden from view as the earth is put back.
Making sure the cars fit within the carport to the underside of the home.
Aluminium formwork supports and scaffolding are carefully laid out to laser accuracy.
It looked like the perfect day to pour the concrete would fall on the weekend, it was the right temperature and overcast.
The practice turned up to lend a hand and discussed the finer details of pouring liquid stone with the specialists on site.
A 35m pipe and pump offers a welcoming hand, pushing the concrete up high. This is the cantilever concrete slab in the making.
A gently sloping folded metal stair awaiting its cantilevering Oak treads. The stair forms the main entry sequence to the first floor covered landing deck.
The home is built from in-situ fair faced concrete, forming a structural and aesthetic coherence that speaks of a certain solidity and mass that we wanted the building to express. This stereotomy helps ground the building within its site and asserts a confidence within itself regarding its situation up high.
The formwork is removed to reveal an elegant cantilevering floor slab extending out to the view.
The cut back in the slab shown above helps emphasise the independent spatial sequences on the first floor. These subtle formal gestures cut within the slab help control the porosity of the spaces above and define activities at first floor, such as living and dining. Externally this underside slab is exposed to the elements and contributes to the pragmatic visual identity for the home as well as providing shelter.
In summary the slab simultaneously hints at the subdivision of programme internally and expresses its context by cantilevering towards a phenomenal view.
We enjoy cultivating form to the point where we feel it speaks of many things present. Multiple layered functions and conscious design reactions no doubt enrich the architectural elements within our buildings; creating abstract and figurative typologies that contain deep meaning often expressed through metaphor. We feel these conscious design moves help justify the buildings own existence.
Objects placed on an elevated plinth create and subdivide open plan space, strictly in accordance to the rituals and activities of our client’s day to day lives.
The first floor concrete plinth or tray as we have come to call it provides a large living area, with secondary spaces such as guest accommodation, studio and workshop in the lower level. Kitchen, dining and master bedroom all afford views across a valley and ocean below.
The main roof discharges large amounts of rainwater into a secluded reflecting pool at first floor. This symbolically separates and spatially unites the study and kitchen space of the home where our clients spend most of their time.
Two roofs in the making: The steel sections vertically and horizontally show the double roof under construction.
Two independent roofs are introduced into the home to layer the architecture. The outer roof is primarily used to create sheltered areas outside the home, away from driving wind and rain. The inner roof sheaths under the outer roof and breaks down the overall mass.
Internally these roof forms provide opportunities for changes in ceiling level. This allows space to compress and expand depending on the activities and programme within. The second roof controls atmosphere within and the outer roof protects the home from the elements.