New classroom

Pre-school pupils recently moved into their new brand classroom at Happy Days nursery, Hardengreen, near Dalkeith. The client wanted an extension to its existing nursery, which could be quickly constructed in order to help alleviate a growing waiting list. Halvorsen Architects response was to deliver a simple, timber-framed structure that is clad in Scottish larch. The classroom’s windows are all floor-to-ceiling, affording plenty of light and enabling the children to look out over the walled garden of the original Georgian house.    

Prototype hut?

Two years on from the launch of Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign‘s ‘New hutting developments’ and not a lot has been built, but woodland sites at Carnock and Falkirk are attracting a lot of interest. Most of the hut designs built to date follow a fairly boxy design, probably to maximise the small permissible floor area, but I wonder if something a little different might better compliment Scotland’s stunning rural settings – mountains, forests and coastline. I was struck by the tent-shaped design of the Kimo hut, which stands alone on a hill in New South Wales, by Anthony Hunt Design and Luke Stanley Architects. Though designed for Australian weather this would be suitable for the Scottish climate too. Without the decking it falls just …

Whole Tree Architecture article

The latest issue of the Association of Scottish Hardwood Sawmillers‘ magazine The Full Circle is out and features an article by Gail on designing whole tree structures. The magazine will be available online shortly. In the meantime you can read the article here.

Tree columns bring wildlife into nursery

Tree columns bring wildlife into nursery

Horntails, or wood wasps, have made their nests in the internal oak trees supporting the roof of Halvorsen Architects’ recently completed Happy Days nursery extension, along with several other species of insect! Rather than be alarmed at their new, uninvited guests, the creative and environmentally-friendly nursery has embraced the chance to study wildlife indoors and set their under fives a project on these mean-looking but quite harmless beasts! (See blog for more information on this project)    

Huts planning guide celebrated

Last night the Thousand Huts campaign launched its ‘New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites’ at the Scottish Parliament. It is a comprehensive document with many seductive photos of huts, both old and new, to help planners and hut builders respond to the emerging opportunities for hut building in Scotland. It was produced by Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign, established in 2011 by Ninian Stuart, director of Falkland Centre for Stewardship. This is the first stepping stone for Thousand Huts campaign in its aim to get more Scots out in the forests and onto the mountains. Their next goal is to get a relaxation in the building standards for huts, which the campaign hopes …

RIBA House of the Year – my winner

I was slightly disappointed when the 2015 RIBA House of the Year was announced in December last year. The winner is worthy – Flint House by Skene Catling De La Pena – but I was seduced by the less iconic but more subtle short-listed Vaulted House in Chiswick, London. At first glance it is not so alluring but the more one looks at it and understands how the complex brief was resolved in such a simple design it is impressive. The challenge of bringing light into such a land-locked, ex-industrial site has been dealt with poetically with a pattern of vaulted roof-lights. It is also the generosity of spirit that I appreciate – seen from above from any of the surrounding houses (the only external view …

Sunshine on Leith

A recently completed extension to a Victorian house in Leith, Edinburgh, this project was designed to maximise the light coming in from the client’s south-facing garden. It’s a large, single room for sitting, dining and showing films. The new multi-purpose room is pulled away to the rear of the original stone building with a three-metre wide link, which has transformed the original kitchen. For this relatively low-budget project Halvorsen Architects used local Scottish larch, which is more knotted but more sustainable than it’s more popular and sleeker Siberian cousin. The roof structure is exposed inside and through the large open gable ends. The roof is supported on a series of scissor trusses, which also support the lighting system and projector for films, shown …

Hempcrete – a natural building material

Marijuana may be great for getting high, but the architectural value of cannabis is in the industrial hemp that forms a vital ingredient of products including hempcrete. Hempcrete is low-tech natural building material made from the chopped stalk of the hemp plant and a lime-based binder. It is carbon-negative in that it absorbs carbon dioxide and can be recycled. The materials are sourced locally – hemp is grown in South-East England. A few months ago, a new four-bedroom house in Midlothian designed by Halvorsen Architects was granted planning permission. An application for building warrant has been submitted for the hempcrete home. The client is an organic farmer who powers his milking machines with a large array of photovoltaic panels. He now wants a new …

Assemble: a worthy winner

I am delighted to learn that Assemble has won this year’s Turner prize. Assemble is a London based architecture collective carrying out innovative low-cost work with local communities and arts organisations. There has already been some discussion about is this art? Bearing in mind some of the conceptual art that has won the prize over the past 20 years the question is hard to fathom. The modern notion of Art, “with a capital A”, with a single semi divine creator, has become pretentious, ignoring whole reams of other creative work, often collaborative, which get dismissed as design, craft or whatever. I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in May with the Assemble member, Amica Dall, at The Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) Conference 2015 – …

Disappointing planning decision by Midlothian Council

As co-chair of Gorebridge Community Development Trust I sent this letter to the Midlothian Advertiser. Unfortunately it seems that nothing can be done now to change the council’s mind but a lot of people are very angry. Dear Editor, Gorebridge Community Development Trust is dismayed and troubled by the recent decision by Midlothian Council Local Review Body to overturn the rejection of outline planning permission for ten houses at the former Arniston Gas Works to the west of the A7. We agree with previous condemnations of the decision by Gorebridge and Moorfoot Community Councils. The application by Pegasus for planning permission in principle for the housing was rejected on 30 June by council planners. This was largely because it contravened Midlothian’s …