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RIBA Exhibition: Party House

At Home in Britain: Designing the House of Tomorrow

The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London

18 May to 29 August 2016

 

This exhibition re-examines how we live and showcases thought-provoking ideas for future housing design. Taking the cottage, terrace and flat as a starting point, six contemporary architecture practices from Britain, the Netherlands and France have been newly commissioned to transform the three familiar typologies to reflect the way we live and work in the 21st century:

 

  • Mecanoo
  • Edouard François
  • Jamie Fobert Architects
  • Mӕ Architects
  • vPPR
  • Studio Weave

Process

In Victorian Britain, a sense of camaraderie could be found in streets of terraced housing as residents made their way to the factories together; colleagues as well as neighbours. The relationship with our neighbours has since changed, but with 14% of us now working from home, a new opportunity to blur the boundaries between work life and family life has emerged.

 

The party wall is traditionally a structure that separates neighbours in a row of terraces, but vPPR have shown that this division could be manipulated to create communal spaces between adjacent houses. Party House demonstrates that by expanding the party wall so that it contains the entrance and private living areas, the remainder of the terrace can become a room to be shared between neighbours. This creates an extra space for working or socialising, with its function decided by those who reside at either side.

Historical Terraced House Types

Concept diagram inverting private and shared space

In this example, located on a fictional site near Voysey’s birthplace in Yorkshire, Party House takes its form from one of his wallpaper patterns, giving the terraced house a unique identity that reflects it’s regional history.

 

vPPR began by analysing examples from the RIBA archives, which showed the terraced house related to shared spaces and how the party wall (also a form of shared space) has changed over time.  Earlier examples of grand Georgian houses show how the communal square provides the primary outdoor recreational space whereas in more standard Victorian terraced houses recreational space is contained in private gardens, with no thought for communal space written into the individual unit.  In the mega basements of today’s London, recreational space becomes even more insular.

 

In their proposal for the terraced house of tomorrow, vPPR creates a ‘wall house’, with linear circulation and curved rooms projecting to either side that form bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and small living room.  Meanwhile the leftover space becomes shared with the houses to either side, providing space for shared childcare or shared workspace, which counters the isolation of working or caring for children at home.  The overall footprint of the house is typical of a standard 5m x 12m terrace.  However, because space is shared, twice the amount is available to each owner.

 

Voysey Wallpaper Pattern Analysis

Voysey Wallpaper Pattern Analysis

The shared spaces are roofed in glass and surveilled by means of windows and balconies off the houses to either side.  They form interior garden-like courtyards.  The curved nature of the projections mean that the space remains more fluid and less divided than an orthogonal geometry might ensure.

 

The idea of sharing spaces came from one of vPPR’s first projects, Otts Yard, where two triangular houses are accessed via a shared triangular courtyard.  The courtyard has provided a very successful communal space between the two properties, where dogs and children play together and neighbours have a drink or breakfast together in the summer.  vPPR has also provided shared communal garden spaces to the back of their recently completed project on Redchurch Street, which has also been successful in creating neighbourly relations.  Having seen the potential for these sorts of outdoor spaces, vPPR feels that the typical reaction that many have to the unworkability of sharing space is overly cynical and that neighbours more often get on than not.

 

The geometry of the curved spaces is derived from a wallpaper or textile pattern by Voysey.  The plan of the terraced house can be seen as a tile forming part of a much larger pattern of development.  The geometry gives the house and the whole district a clear identity and an architectural language that could be applied to landscapes and streetscapes throughout.  The sinuous nature of the pattern weaves the site together as a continuous set of curves.

Proposed plans for Party House