Ask The Architect – The ridiculous and sublime


Last Friday was the second series of free design clinics in Shrewsbury, hosted by Lanyon Bowdler and I had some interesting questions and topics to consider.

Planning and Change of Use

The afternoon started with a semi retired couple, who I shall call Mr & Mrs Brown, who live on a small holding of about 6 acres with a large fishing lake set in attractive countryside.  They had recently completed the build of a boat house with workshop, that was originally given planing approval in the 80’s.  As you might imagine the late completion of an old approval gave rise to some complaints being made, resulting in a visit from an enforcement officer, which must have been a little worrying.

Fortunately the planning approval had been secured as work started very soon after the approval was given and the enforcement officer went away happy that all was as it should be.

At the time of the planning approval, the Browns owned the lake and land around it and the building of the boat house was put on hold, because the Browns bought an adjoining plot of land with a house on it and were busy moving in and getting on with other things.

Like a lot of people, the Browns have reached a stage in their life where they want to live in a smaller house that will suit them for now and the rest of their lives, I don’t think the word ‘downsize’ really manages to explain the details involved with this process.  Quite understandably, the Browns would like to sell their home, they even have someone who is keen to buy, and move into the boat house after giving it a bit more space and making it suitable.  This is where things start to get more difficult.

As luck would have it they had a visit from a planning officer, regarding the building of the boat house, who told them without prompting, that they wouldn’t get approval for a change of use.  I thought this was refreshingly direct for a planning officer, especially when the Browns have not made any applications to do so.

I think the help of a planning consultant is required so the Browns can get a full understanding of their situation.  Unfortunately they have already approached a consultant but did not get a very warm reception and as a result were less than impressed with their approach.  I suggested someone I know who I think would be very helpful in this case.

I think there are a few areas that might help in the case for a change of use.  The first comes down to proving a need for the boat house as a dwelling as the building lends itself to living in retirement years much more than their existing home.  The second possibility is to explore covenants on the building linked to the owners and use of the land.  Finally I would like to know more about the terms of the original application to see how it categories the boat house, is a boat house really that different to a garage?

Hopefully I shall hear more when a planning officer gets involved.

World Class Architecture

The most interesting session, from an architectural point of view, came later in the day.  Due to the nature of this session I shall have to keep some of the details to myself, but I want to share some aspects with you as this is a very interesting project.

I met someone who is planning a unique social enterprise based on a grand vision of community, education and awareness of a particular topic that we as a society do not know how to deal with, talk about and react to.

After our introductions I was given a brief and interesting background to my visitor and they went on to tell me why they were setting up a new venture and what they wanted from a building as part of the enterprise.  As part of this introduction the work of Daniel Libeskind was mentioned in detail, with particular reference to the Jewish Museum in Berlin and bookmarked pages of his book Breaking Ground.  It turned out that my visitor wanted to approach Libeskind and work with him on this project, this had been suggested to them recently by someone who knew Libeskind and thought it he would be interested in the project.

We started talking about the theory of architecture, how buildings can make you feel or think and the way that the decisions made during the design process all come from the concept and context of the project.

I found it very exciting to be discussing such an interesting project and approaching a brief by talking about emotive and subjective concepts.  The idea and theory behind this project and what the building should be like and how people respond to it, could be set as a project for a diploma course in architecture.

I hope to be able to tell you more about this project and I look forward to seeing it develop.

All in all a very enjoyable day helping people and I’m looking forward to more in the New Year.

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4 responses to “Ask The Architect – The ridiculous and sublime

  1. Given the rush of the all the holiday madness and gladness it has been a late response to the above comments of Matthew Franklin, so I would like to say a few words now about attending an ‘Ask the Architect’ meeting in Dec 2011:

    Sometimes ideas pop into our heads inspired by images of art and architecture that both transcend our everyday lives while simultaneously acknowledging the importance of a moment. Perhaps it is the moment, as one artist put it, ‘when that which is most familiar seems most strange’.

    I believe this is the case with good architecture. We know we are walking into what we call a ‘building’. It is a functional place with rooms, windows and doors. Yet, great architecture causes us to pause and realize that we are not just in a place to move about aimlessly, but to move with purpose and thought. Perhaps it is a place to change and alter the way we think altogether. Conceiving of such a place takes what I would call an ‘architectural mind’. A way of seeing spaces not just as function, but as philosophy, radical change, and empowerment.

    I was someone who was inspired by architecture and needed to speak with Matthew Franklin to clarify and solidify my thoughts. One of the best things he gave me during the course of our meeting was one of acknowledgement and acceptance that a building can be so much more and can have the power to change human thought. We of course see this in our great cathedrals, mosques, and temples, which went a long way to altering the beliefs of so many people throughout history.

    However, great architecture can also reveal itself in the minimal as well as the magnificent building. We can have an elegant community centre, library or music room that is as exceptional as a great church. Sometimes speaking with a like-minded individual can give us the encouragement to take such ideas forward and move them toward reality.

    Matthew Franklin gave that opportunity to me. I now have the seed of an idea for a building/complex that I plan to bring to fruition if at all possible. This may take years, but it is a journey worth embarking on. Many thanks for all your help Matthew.
    Judith Wester
    CEDAR: Community Education in Death Awareness & Resources
    jrw.cedar@btinternet.com

  2. Judith
    Thank you for the thoughtful comments, good luck with the project.

  3. Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?

    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate
    your content. Please let me know. Many thanks

    • Thanks for the message, sorry I have not come back to you before.
      The service has not been running recently as I have moved into full time employment. We are looking at starting it up again, so it might be back.

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