Saturday 26 March 2011

Shapes in the landscape, and aerodynamics

I've now discussed the singlespace design with a lot of people, and got useful feedback.

Several people have queried having the loo in the singlespace. Actually, that was never the plan. The plan is to have a cludgie about 50 metres away in the wood.  However, this is a house to grow old in, and while it's one thing to go fifty metres into the wood on a warm summers day at fifty five, it may be a different thing on a cold winters night in twenty years time. So the design has to have an account of where an indoor water closet will go. And just at present it doesn't.

Another friend asked where I would put my bikes. Again, a very good question which this design really doesn't address. And it does need to. There's no point in having a dwelling which is almost invisible in the landscape if it's surrounded with ugly sheds.

Which brings us to my objection: the isolated geometric cone, even if covered with turf, isn't a natural shape. Granted, as an architect friend has pointed out, there's nowhere you can see the cone against the sky - it will never be skylined, because of the rising ground behind it. But it still isn't a natural shape.

Also, significantly, rain which falls on the north half of the roof drains north. Of course there needs to be thoughtful drainage around the north half of the building, but still adding more water to the problem isn't helpful. From that point of view, building a gable from the apex of the roof north-east into the hillside would both make a (somewhat) more natural land shape and reduce the drainage problem.

However, you end up with an unlovely bastard structure, and this in a building in which the structure is necessarily exposed. I'm still somewhat in love with my twisted cone roof. And my architect friend feels that the flat planes of the gable roof will look as unnatural or more unnatural in the landscape than the cone.

So there are a series of unresolved problems with the design.

However, the worst of the problems is one which should have been obvious to me. That conical roof is going to generate a huge amount or aerodynamic lift, and mine is an exceptionally windy site. My architect friend, who pointed this out, said also that as I've designed it it is also floppy and will move in the wind. This isn't a crisis. He pointed out that I could brace the roof with tensile members, like a bicycle wheel. This resolves the floppyness - instead of moving like a jellyfish, it will move as a single rigid thing.


But, it will still lift. That lift has to be contained. Which means the pillars have to act as tensile members, and must transmit lift to the floor. Which means that footing pieces for the pillars have to be cast into the concrete slab foundation, in exactly the right places. So I have to get the exact positions right before I pour the slab, and I can't shift things even by a single centimetre once it's poured.

All these things are design problems. All of them have to be resolved. But none of them makes this design unusable. I shall continue to think.

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