It may not look that controversial to you.
But after the long drive from Perth railway station, past endless Scottish countryside and a scattering of farm buildings, Cedar House comes as something of a surprise.
There is little in the way of pioneering architecture in this part of the world, and the fact that architect (and client) Mark Walker won the enthusiastic support of the planners is something of an achievement in itself.
There are, however, some clear sops to local planning policy. In keeping with contemporary building regulations it has been designed with the harsh local climate in mind. There is minimal external envelope, and, with the exception of the glass entrance door to the north, the glazing faces south.
The glass is double-glazed with low E glass.
The in situ solid concrete floor provides thermal mass - underfloor heating in the form of embedded water pipes makes the open-plan arrangement viable.With its cedar cladding, shingle roof and dark-stained window frames, the house melts into the landscape, and there is a clear formal connection to the agricultural and light-industrial barns which litter the surrounding countryside.
That said, Cedar House is far removed from the ubiquitous barn conversion. Firmly in the tradition of Modernist domestic architecture, it is long, low, minimal, transparent and rectilinear - albeit with an asymmetrical sloping roof.
Planned on a grid and made of simple timber-frame construction, the design was conceived as a prototype, capable of being repeated and modified in an infinite variety of ways. Modules can be added to vary the length of the house, walls can be removed to turn, say, two smaller bedrooms into one larger one, and so on. The ordering principle is straightforward. Open-plan living space runs along the south-west, linked to the garden by a wall of full-height sliding glass doors which run along the length of the house and wrap around the corners. Cellular spaces are ranked along the lower, darker north-eastern side - broken only by an 'entrance porch' which opens directly onto the main public space. There are no cross walls in the living area, but a box containing the bathrooms divides the living space into two distinct 'rooms' - the living/dining area, and the much smaller home/office - linked by a narrower kitchen area. It is a highly efficient floor plan, with circulation space limited to a small 'inner hall' giving access to bedrooms and bathrooms.
There are numerous devices to add complexity to the space. The entrance area is flanked on one side by the the translucent polycarbonate wall to the garage. Lights embedded in its double skin reveal the shadows of the timber-stud construction, and illuminate the living space at night. The cross-axis leading from the entrance door is full-height, revealing the asymmetric slope of the roof. The richly textured Brazilian slate floor is laid in a cruciform shape, with the short arm of the entrance porch mirrored by a paved outdoor space - a clear visual link between inside and out. An external gravelled area - planted with grasses and bamboo which have yet to grow - visually doubles the width of the internal space.
The overall effect is one of generosity and opulence - not bad for a cost of £52/m 2, especially when you consider that it includes floor finishes and timber-slatted blinds, eliminating the expense of carpets and curtains. The fact that Walker acted not only as architect but as quantity surveyor and engineer meant that there were significant savings on fees.
Affordability was essential to the concept, partly in deference to the limitations of his own budget, but also because Walker viewed the project as a challenge, to see what could be done for the same cost of the equivalent conventional new-build house.
As a one-off project it is hugely successful, and it clearly suits the Walker family perfectly. But its success as a prototype is yet to be proved. It will depend on Walker's ability to attract clients, but also on his ability to 'let go'. Cedar House is highly idiosyncratic and it may be difficult to cede authorship.
On both counts, the signs are good.Walker has been inundated with enquiries from neighbours, who have greeted the house with (qualified) delight. As envisaged, different people want to use the spaces in different ways - no garage but a bigger living area, a playroom instead of a garage. But there also requests for variations which Walker never envisaged. One potential client wants to change the location of the free-standing logburning stove which, at Cedar House, is positioned in front of the long glass wall so that people inside the house can watch the flames against the backdrop of the elements.
Another is ambivalent about the timber-slatted blinds, which transform the glass pavilion into a timber packing-crate by night, and wants to use traditional curtains instead.
Walker seems to be taking it in its stride.
'That's the whole point really, ' he says with a shrug. 'They can do whatever they want.'
Materials All walls softwood frame Internal linings are maple-faced ply Gables are cedar sawn board on board, left raw Boards over patio doors are cedar sanded tongue and grooved, stained ebony with Sikkens Novatech Western red cedar shingles to roofs Redwood-framed patio doors, stained ebony with Sikkens Novatech double-glazed with low 'E' glass Facings in external-quality ply, stained ebony Floors finished with 10mm rio ferrada slate and 22mm oak strip Bathroom walls finished with rio ferrada slate
Costs PAYMENTS TO CONTRACTOR Patio doors £7,690 Windows £620 Hardwood floor £2,770 Slate floor £5,584 Complete kitchen £7,243 Sanitaryware £3,798 Maple ply sheeting to internal walls £2,076 Other payments £81,074 Subtotal £110,855
ADDITIONAL EXPENDITURE Wood burning stove £2,669 Invisible heating system £5,060 Blinds £,553 TV aerial £189 Fencing and gates £555 Floor mats £179 Tarmac drive £1,996 Floor seal £244 Subtotal £16,445 TOTAL £127,300 (£52/m2)
CONTRACT VALUE £127,000 COMPLETION DATE January 2000 AREA 228m 2including a 33m 2garage CLIENT Mark and Chloe Walker ARCHITECT Walker Architecture SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS underfloor heating Invisible Heating Systems;
woodslat blinds Chris Craft; western red cedar shingles Loft Shop;
redwood framed sliding patio doors Allan Brothers;
rio ferrada slate floor Kirkstone Quarries; woodburning stove LHA-Scan