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I am not an Architect! – ‘Refuge & Prospect’

I am not an Architect! - 'Refuge & Prospect'

Home Cornwall is entering an exciting new phase; I’m leaving selling and letting to others so that I can train to become an Architect! Whilst I embark on Architecture RIBA Part 1 at Falmouth University my weekly blog will include an image that strikes an alternative meaning for me in the process of learning… The choice for week one is:

An image of the end of an Ope off Falmouth High Street

Study to become an Architect – Falmouth University weekly blog No.1 The Writer’s Cabin

Refuge or Prospect, or both?

Within this photograph lies a number of lessons an architect may study. From this image we may glean information on space, form, materials (granite, brick, wood, render), structure (arches, stairways, doorways, walls), light, sound and much more. For me, this also conveys one of the key considerations for our current project; The Writer’s Cabin. The picture suggests the idea of being able to take shelter and feel safe to enable us to be productive in some way; yet seeing or sensing that something more exciting or naturally pleasing lies beyond. As a student, (a mature one at that!) this sums up how I am feel as I embark on what could be seven years of preparation to become an Architect!


Architect with a capital ‘A’

There is no roof above the doorway in my image – on either side. A feeling of being exposed? Not really…it simply leaves me wondering; how would this look if the shade did not fall on the door?.. Would the area feel more exposed if the arch were not there?.. How did they come to construct the building behind the doorway which occupies such a prominent waterfront position?

Each week of learning about architecture (of which there have been around twelve so far) has made me more and more aware that not all questions can be answered quickly and easily, and sometimes not at all!  An Architect is simply tasked to find a solution within the confines of time, the resource available and rules governing the place in which they operate.  Whilst we are all architect’s of our own space and environment it seems I am not yet an Architect with a capital ‘A’, as the solution to the problem appears to be so complicated and will be for some time me thinks!

The Writer’s Cabin – Project ARC120

My fellow students and I have been challenged to present a solution for a building only two metres wide (i.e., not much wider than the doors in the image above). This Writer’s Cabin will (theoretically) be located an opening between two buildings off Falmouth High Street hovering above a small ‘Ope’.  The aim is to produce a comfortable space for a writer, much the same as Dylan Thomas had created for himself as shown below:

Interior of Dylan Thomas's writing hut in the Welsh Village of Laugharne

Interior of Dylan Thomas’s writing hut in the Welsh Village of Laugharne

A few examples of writer’s cabins I have found include these below; all have diverse approaches…

Welsh hut

Suspended Cabin

Snow Wedge Norway

Regulatory Framework

In preparing for the task ahead, our first lecture: ‘Regulatory Frameworks’, was given by local Architect Michael Harris. He introduced the many government bodies and associations that produce the rules and guidance that will restrict or enhance our future design. Whilst some regulations prevent wild ideas producing dangerous buildings, others also help to ensure that the environment we build suits the majority rather than the minority; apt for the future.  (I am now beginning to understand how the more modern buildings on Falmouth waterfront come to be!)

It turns out that architecture is not just about slapping a roof on four walls. Its about creating spaces with or without a roof that build on all of our senses. Its about making a statement about who we are.  Recreating and creating go hand in hand.

Modification of Elements

So, to focus on the task of creating my Writers Cabin as an ‘Architect’. I must first develop a method of bringing the senses alight in a building that would have difficulty obtaining light. Being pinned between two high buildings with orientation south west to north east means devising a method to cleverly divert light to the very heart of the space, or just to the writer’s desk. The building could be fourteen metres long or more! I am required do this whilst bearing in mind the many regulatory frameworks an architect must respect. Part of the brief for this project includes this poignant quote:

“Also marvellous in a room is the light that comes through the windows of a room and that belongs to the room. The sun does not realize how beautiful it is until after a room is made. A man’s creation, the making of a room, is nothing short of a miracle. Just think, that a man can claim a slice of the sun.” Architect, Louis Kahn – Silence and Light.

Examples of small houses found in my research so far include:

Japanese Narrow House

Ghent House Belgium

Notting Hill Skinny House

Architecture & Well-Being

On our reading list is a book entitled ‘Analysing Architecture’ by Architect, Simon Unwin, and my attention was drawn to section 7; Themes in Spatial Organisation – Refuge and Prospect’.  He makes the observation that “..we like to be contained (hidden) and feel protected (psychologically as well as physically) within a refuge (which might be no more than a cave or the margins of a forest); but at the same time we want to be able to see what is happening in the world around us – in particular, whether anyone is coming (who might pose a threat to our well-being)”.   As he says, many elements of architecture we take for granted. In thinking of this I realise that light, especially sunlight, is something very important to our well-being. I would like to use this concept to incorporate both the notions of refuge, and prospect, into my design. Let’s see what happens!!…

My Next blog:

Light, and how I modify its use to create the ambience I need for my Writer’s Cabin.

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