Chapter 4a ~ Rural Housing Guidebook – What’s the Big Idea? Contd…

So, I’ve introduced the concept that every good house should have an overriding ‘big idea’ – something that separates it from the rest. In essence, in the same way that Twitter breaks the world down into 140 characters, you should be able to communicate the ‘big idea’ of a house into a simple sentence. The content of this all-defining sentence should be able to summarise the key concepts that the architect was trying to achieve. What you should be looking for when writing your own sentence is a description that shows a spark of creativity and originality rather than a few generic words that would could describe any run-of-the-mill house such as “it has two gables facing the road”.

The best way to explain what I’m trying to get at is with a few examples:

Example 1: Our house


Let’s start with our own house, here’s the sentence:

“The first floor rotates about a double height hall so that the lower level is built underground and blends into the ground with a grass roof; and the upper floor is thereby at a second ground level. The two storey section evokes the nearby granaries and the glazed, underground section is open-plan,contemporary and maximises passive solar gain”

See what I mean, it’s taken quite a few words even to give a basic description of the house; the difference between this and a the description of “It has two gables fronting the road” is astronomic.


Example 2: House at Osaka by Eastern Design Office

“A crisp white and glazed structure that hugs and cantilevers out from the landscape and replaces any lost topography with organic walls reflecting the original contours”

Getting the idea?

Examples 3 & 4:


Scottish Highland Housing Fair; Plot 4.1, designed by Matt Bridgestock whilst at John Gilbert Architects:

Sentance: “The Timber House, designed with modern materials and methods, evoking the style of the corrugated iron buildings typical of the Highlands.”


Tokavaig House by Dualchas Building Design

“Contemporary reinterpretation of traditional Scottish form using familiar materials, colours and construction in an innovative way”

Example 5:


Mimetic House by Dominic Stevens

“A sculpted form that reflects and mimics the landscape around it and the grass roof completes the theme of a house becoming part of the environment”

Example 6: One of mine again


“A double pitched house evoking the traditional Irish schoolhouse, with a contemporary, linking bridge that joins together the two first floor roof spaces”

Example 7: Greencastle House by Paul McLaughlin Architect

Greencastle House by Paul McLaughlin Architect

Greencastle House by Paul McLaughlin Architect

Sentence: “Nestled in the garden of the parent house, this shallow roofed one bedroom sanctuary with deep overhanging eaves is bounded by a stream, a county road and the lough shore path, glazed sliding doors on three walls flow onto sun terraces by day and act as a lantern by night always providing a focal point in the garden.”

Example 8: Another one of mine for Tim Morris Bronze Sculptor

Contemporary barn extension for Tim Morris, bronze sculptor & foundry

Contemporary barn extension for Tim Morris, bronze sculptor & foundry

Sentence: “A contemporary extension to a traditional Irish cottage, rendered on the ground floor and clad on the first floor in Western red cedar; passively glazed on the southern facade with a form derived from the traditional curved barn roofs prevalent in the area.”

See what I’m getting at…

Why not send me an image with your defining sentence and I’ll include it on this page.

Comments welcome as always…

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