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Stepping up

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Like the previous two houses - from AEM Studio and Lisa Shell Design - this matched pair of houses in Merchiston Mews, Edinburgh, has no outdoor space. It does, however, have dual-aspect, though no rear access, the rear looking on to a former industrial site that is now four-storey housing in render and facing blockwork. Another idiosyncrasy of the site is the fall of half a storey from front to rear of the building, which has been cleverly exploited by inserting staircases across the houses on the centre line and putting en suite bedrooms in the extra half level created at the rear. Thus, the front half of the plan is entrance plus garage with living space above. The rear of the plan - offset half a level - is two storeys of bedrooms with kitchen-diner above. This difference in level is resolved at the top of the houses by creating for each of them one large living/kitchen/dining volume under an exposed pitched roof soffit.

While windows to the rear provide immediate illumination to the kitchen/ diner, other windows have been strategically placed to emphasise the scale of the large volume. A skylight running continuously along the ridge draws the eye up and provides some apparent height for the kitchen/diner under the asymmetricalsection roof. To the southerly front, the firstfloor window (with internal double sliding timber screens) is extended upwards with matching windows above the roof plane, so emphasising the height of the living space and providing enhanced views out to the front from the higher kitchen/diner.

At the lowest levels of the houses the interior is mainly cellular accommodation in painted plaster. For the large single volume there is a transition to lighter weight - the stair returns are divided by metal mesh and then the timber roof structure lined with plywood.

Externally, there are two different contexts. To the rear, the neighbouring new housing layout is relatively large scale, the two mews houses aligning with their neighbours to create a windowed boundary wall to this development. The two houses, now called Mossman Houses after the clients, are simply rendered with punched windows at bedroom levels, the kitchen/diner level expressed with larger openings and timber boarding.

The front context is mews-like in scale, though varied. The houses occupy the site of three single-storey garages. Existing buildings are mixed in use, style, age and quality, typically two or three storeys high.While the eaves of Mossman Houses line through with adjoining buildings, the three-storey scale of the extended windows and their projecting roofs is not out of place here.

The front is stone, crisply detailed, certainly the best of the mews. Standing out, with quality, is more appropriate than selfeffacing fitting in. But it is inside where the client is most appreciative: of the amount of accommodation worked into a small volume and especially the creation of the spacious single volume in a building that might appear unable to accommodate it.


TENDER DATE 20 December 1999




CONTRACT Scottish Building Contract with Quantities (April 1998 Revision)


CLIENT Mr & Mrs Mossman

ARCHITECT ARCADE Architects: Alison Blamire, Alistair Blamire, Thomas Hamilton





SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS KitchenMagnet; bathroom sanitaryware Roca, Bette; taps Bristan; marble vanity tops Toffolo Jackson; ceramic wall, floor tiles (Grespor) CTD; Stancliffe stone Capital Stone Co; McAlpine slate Harrison and Duff; patent glazed rooflight Peter Noble and Sons; windows Nordan; special metalwork Nordan; structural steelwork George Legge; special glazing BLU, Speedglaze; light fittings Reggiani, iGuzzini (from Scott Coppola); d-line ironmongery Allgood; doorsMcTavish Ramsay; timber flooring Kahrs; underfloor heating Purmo; limestone flooring Kirkstone Quarries; garage doors Seceurodoor, SWS UK; paint to steelwork Hammerite

ARCADE Architects www. arcadearchitects. com

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