Two New Houses

Planning permission has been approved for two separate, new, four-bedroomed houses designed by Halvorsen Architects in rural Midlothian. 

They are both in the beautiful area around Crichton Castle, with one actually overlooking the ruined keep. Midlothian Council was concerned about the impact the houses might have on this area of outstanding natural beauty, so great care was taken to integrate both buildings into their surroundings. As is often the case with planning departments nowadays, the council wanted to see a modern aspect to both designs to underline the fact the buildings are new, but also wanted to blend this with the use of traditional forms and materials.

It is an interesting discussion – old versus new, particularly in sensitive areas. I believe that since the 1980s, bodies such as Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland have paved the way for architects to build overtly new buildings in close proximity to historic ones. This has made the new acceptable alongside the old, especially the trademark glazed link between the two in instances where they need to be physically connected.

However, I do believe that it takes a particularly architectural aware planner to find the middle ground between modern and traditional/vernacular design. In one project I designed an extension to a listed Georgian farmhouse, the walls of which were entirely of glass. OK. But I wanted a pitched roof – a continuation of the existing pitched roof of an adjacent farm steading that was being extended into. I was told – no, it had to be a flat roof. Apart from flat roofs not being the ideal solution in the Scottish climate, I think the planners ”all or nothing” approach was flawed. In my view a hybrid of glass walls and pitched roof would actually have worked better.

That was nearly ten years ago and the planners now seem more accommodating. In the two new houses the issues and solutions were different. One, a house for a farm worker, is on a greenfield site overlooking Crichton Castle. The second replaces an existing barn on another farm and keeps the shape of that barn.

It is our intention to use Hempcrete as the main building material for one of the two houses. I am very excited at the prospect of using this innovative but sustainable material, but more about that in another blog!

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