24th June 2015
Exactly a year ago, on a day just as warm as today, a huge truck turned up and emptied its concrete guts into the carefully laid formwork on site, creating the slab on which the house would rise. It was a messy business. Today a much smaller truck arrived and, within a couple of hours, the steel veil that has disguised the front of the house for the last five months had been dismantled, loaded on to the truck and driven away. For the first time, we can stand back and appreciate the form of the house in its entirety.
‘It is one of the chief virtues of the Gothic builders that they never suffered ideas of outside symmetries and consistencies to interfere with the real use and value of what they did. If they wanted a window, they opened one; a room, they added one; a buttress, they built one; utterly regardless of any conventionalities of external appearance.’
Like the architects of the Arts and Crafts movement, who were inspired by Ruskin, we have been free with the conventionalities of external appearance while also bringing life to the composition with exceptional materials. The curious form of The Orchard is, I hope, rescued by the richness and variety of the materials we have used which distract and delight the eye. Most of all, the greenhouse is now revealed as a shimmering composition of rippling glass, delicate lead and chunky oak, sitting on top its tall plinth of beautifully variegated Northcot bricks.
The greenhouse still wears a dirty plastic skirt to protect the bricks and mortar from the leeching oils of the oak. Nonetheless, the view from below, taking in the arch over the entrance, is striking. Here our debt is specifically to Lutyens, and to Deanery Garden in particular. Lutyens liked to transform the conventionalities of external appearance and had a particular fondness for simple geometric forms. Although we are following him in playing with traditional architectural details, the pleasure of the composition is perhaps just the interplay of repeating rectangles and concentric circles.
Before the scaffold came down I took some final photos of details that I enjoy. Here they are:
- The south elevation of the greenhouse from above.
- The narrow but crucial north windows of the greenhouse, which give us a 180 degree view of the road, next to the silvered red bricks and the cool blue-green of the porcelain tiles around the bathroom window.
- The north windows of the greenhouse above the bathroom, with the gutter draining onto the bathroom roof (which will drain into a trough in the greenhouse).
- A view through the east and south windows of the greenhouse of the balcony of Tree House, distorted by the imperfections in the glass.
- The chimney stack rising above the greenhouse roof, marching well ahead of our Ventive ventilation cowls.
- The junction of the roof of The Orchard with the north wall of Tree House.
- The parapet roof of the main building, complete with roof windows and solar panels.