A Room in the Garden

Located in Putney / South West London. The clients live in the garden flat and have two young kids. They are trying to resist the urge to move out to the suburbs as they are outgrowing their current flat so this was a solution at least for the short to medium term. They also wanted the possibility to take it with them if they move – hence the need for it to be easy to disassemble and reconstruct elsewhere. 

The geometry of the architecture is an interplay of changing geometric forms. The octagonal wall structure rises to form a hexagonal roof which then frames a square skylight. The main timber columns that support the walls converge to form a truss like structure that supports the roof. In so doing they give a heightened sense of verticality and therefore both a greater sense of space and an aesthetic reinforcement of the underlying geometry of the structure. 

The intention was to design a structure that was both high quality yet affordable, quick and easy to assemble by a self builder and which could be taken down and reassembled. It was also important that it was low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) both in its end use but also in its assembly. Each element is numbered and slots into the next. There is no on site cutting required and all of the screw and bolt fixing holes are predrilled. Internal and external linings are sheet material so there are no wet trades and therefore almost no dust and little noise created during the erection process. 

The building is built to modern UK building regulation standards, however the sprayed insulation means that it is airtight, ensuring that very little energy is required to heat it. The underfloor heating, lighting, rooflight and extract fan with humidistat can all be controlled remotely from a smart phone. This means that even during prolonged periods when not in use the temperature can be controlled and the space can be naturally or mechanically ventilated to ensure that remains dry, well ventilated and warm when needed.

With a team of 2 people, the main frame took 2 days to erect and the external linings and cladding took 4 days to install. The internal linings, underfloor heating, flooring and furniture took a further 4 days’ work, to a total of 20 person days. The only specialist required was the spray insulation contractor and an electrician. 

Architecturally it is designed to exude the playfulness of a folly, with the patterned green cladding is intended to partially and surreally camouflage the building in its natural surroundings.

The interior is designed to adapt with the seasons: providing a sense of tactile warmth during the winter months, the large double doors enabling it to be opened to the garden in summer. The exposed timber structure which rises to the ceiling converging and framing the skylight, gives a central focal point and top light, ideal when seeking a place to read or for quiet contemplation. 

Project credits:

Architects: Studio Ben Allen

Team: Ben Allen, Omar Ghazal, Marco Nicastro, Arthur Wong, Massine Yallaoui

Structural Engineer: Format Engineers

Landscape design: Daniel Bell Landskap

Installer: Sullivan and Company

CNC cutting: Hub Workshop

Photography + film: Ben Tynegate

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