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Quarts in pint pots

building study

We look at individual houses by five designers, all tight for space and all adding an extra dimension through design.The first is a landlocked site in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, by AEM Studio It needed an architect to see that this site in Malmesbury had potential. Previously occupied by a shed, used variously as workshops and for storage, the L-shaped building was tightly surrounded on all sides, except for a narrow street frontage.

AEM Studio has used this constrained footprint to build a house for practice director Pascal Madoc Jones' mother. There was more difficulty negotiating with the six party wall owners than for planning permission - the planners were happy to see the original building go and did not push for pastiche in this historic town.

Set back from the narrow street to allow a car to sit off the carriageway while the garage door opens, the house's street frontage explains the plan layering. The solid ground floor doors open on to predominantly open space for access/parking/storage plus a requirement for turning a car within the curtilage. The dwelling itself is largely behind the first-floor balcony.

The enclosure of the site means that the only access to daylight and views is from the street or the roof, so manipulation of daylight has been a key element of the design.

When entering from the street the open floor reveals the columns of the steel frame, set inboard from the edge of the plan on concrete pads on bedrock, avoiding neighbouring footings. The few built spaces on the ground floor are a stair core, including passenger lift, and a guest bedroom set adjacent to an open courtyard, which brings sky light down to this level. There are also narrow light slots at other points between the new building and existing party walls.

On the first floor much of the layout is open-plan, looking on to the front balcony and courtyard. South-facing, the balcony is protected both by a yellow retractable awning and by heavyweight horizontally sliding/folding timber screens, which, when closed, let through a barn-door-like striped light. The view from the balcony is over rooftops to the valley beyond. For the rear range of first-floor spaces - core, bathrooms, bedrooms - the high roof allows partitions to be glazed above normal ceiling height, providing borrowed daylight to these spaces.

There are also skylights.

The undulating roof had to follow the shape of the original shed's accumulated roof planes. The clever use of this folded plate to help daylight penetration and the whole packing of the spaces into the enclosed site set a puzzle for the builders, which Madoc Jones elucidated with a set of three-dimensional sketches.

Materials are basic: timber, plaster, render, glass, wood-like composite resin siding and existing stone, which is left exposed in the north-east bedroom.Underfloor heating helps keep surfaces clear.

There is still a lot going on visually, though, and Madoc Jones wonders whether, given another start, he might pick up more on the barn-like theme, making the whole building more rudimentary. But it is not overly busy. Rather, the sense of lit space flowing from front to back belies the site's constraints.

CREDITS

START ON SITE DATE February 2002

CONTRACT DURATION 8 months

GROSS EXTERNAL FLOOR AREA 170m 2

FORM OF CONTRACT Minor Works 1998

ARCHITECT AEM Studio: Nic Bone, Richard Gollidge, Kirsten Haggart, Pascal Madoc Jones, Alex Young

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Elliott Wood Partnership

QUANTITY SURVEYOR Jenkins Hansford Partnership

SERVICES ENGINEER Max Fordham

PARTY WALL SURVEYOR John Williams

MAIN CONTRACTOR AC Nurden

SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS Joinery Steve Grey; lift Stannah; concrete stairs Blanc de Bierges; ironmongery Higrade;

lights GFC; roofing, sidings Eternit; composite floors and topsMarble Flooring Specialists; lino Forbo Nairn; kitchen Falcon Interiors; gate mechanisms FAAC ;sliding/folding doors Sunplan; infills to storage screens Rohm Makrolon WEBLINKS AEM Studio www. a-em. com Elliott Wood Partnership www. elliottwood. co. uk Max Fordham www. maxfordham. com AC Nurden (Malmesbury) www. nurden. ac

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