When designing a building, the details are often the thing which make the difference between something being ordinary, and it being extra-ordinary. It’s sometimes hard to put your finger on what these details are, but we thought a post showing what things we tend to aim to control would be beneficial.
It’s also a common theme when working with builders that they don’t understand why they are being asked to do something differently to every time they have done it before – often in long careers
My old boss Richard Murphy once told me something when I was a year-out student back in 2002 which has stuck with me ever since, and I’d never considered before he said it – even four years into architecture school. Look around you. Everywhere in your house where one piece of your house touches something else, if you care about it, there should be a drawing of it. That means that everywhere a wall meets a floor, or a window meets it’s sill, a socket is inset into a wall, or if you want a particularly beautiful staircase (with all the treads, handrail, balustrades etc perfectly formed), if you want to control how it turns out, you need to have a set of information which tells the builder that is how it is to be done, or else they will invariably revert to their ‘standard’ means of forming that detail.
Even on a small property, if you’re aiming to control all those connections, that’s an awful lot of drawings. Here is an image of Richard's award winning house - look how connections there are on the front elevation.
The questions we are constantly asked are as such: Why on earth would you want skirtings which aren’t bought standard size? Why would you not want a standard uPVC projecting eaves detail on your house? That’s the way it’s almost always done. What’s wrong with it?
The above images show a 'standard' eaves detail on the right, and the one we worked hard to achieve at Strone to the left - note the lack of projection and relationship the gutter has with the roof - it's very different in both images.
The answer is craft – the careful composition of everything, and it’s consideration as part of a whole.
The cumulative total of getting hundreds of these little things right adds up to the difference between ordinary and outstanding. And at Loader Monteith, we are absolutely obsessive about them.
Our Carpenter's House project - we spent ages working out how to slide the door into the cavity of the wall so that the whole room could open up to the patio beyond, and so there were almost no window frames visible internally.
Images of our projects at the Collector's Home in Pollokshields. The details of the window surround (L) and the utility box (R) were developed looking at a patina of material over the whole project to arrive at a functional outcome which looked great.
Iain and I set up the practice with the mindset that any project is as good as you make it. We stand by that, but having clients willing to trust you about what matters, and builders willing to lay their scepticism aside, really helps deliver great work. There are of course always things which you let go – but a good architect should help the money flow into the areas of the building where it’ll make the difference, and the accumulation of these little things adds up to make a wonderful project
Our project at the Shieling in Fintry - the ceiling set out and detailing became a labour of love to arrange the panels so carefully and to compose the roof lights so their placement appeared deliberate