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Architecture: Elm & Willow House

March 18, 2010

Architects EAT’s courtyard house encloses a central courtyard and two mature Elm and Willow trees, blurring the boundary between the interior and the landscape beyond.

This restoration and alteration to existing Edwardian house involved the demolition and construction at the rear of a new addition. The transparency and openness of the new part is a deliberate counterpoint to the introverted Edwardian house, with its dark central corridor. The intention of the project was to create an “inside is outside is inside” environment, where interior and exterior spaces were interchangeable elements.

The site was already home to two mature trees, an Elm and a Willow – and these became the constraints of the project. Their position informed the arrangement of the new addition, as did a passive solar orientation. The result is a building that is U-shaped in plan, enclosing a north-facing courtyard.

The structure is suspended above the ground, to avoid damaging the roots of the two trees. The concrete floor and roof slabs are meticulously detailed to make them seem light and airy, in contrast to the weight and materiality of the concrete. This is enhanced by a skeletal structure of “skin and bones”, in which the non load-bearing sliding windows become a mere breathing skin between occupants and the outside world.

The layout of the extension unfolds in a sequence of interior and exterior spaces. The link between old and new merges in the layering of spaces – the transparency of the glazed borders allows the eye to take in the exterior landscape that lies beyond the living spaces. It is a house for enjoyment, in which the clients feel they are living in the landscape where they can appreciate tranquility, intimacy and sanctuary.

*Team* Architects: Albert Mo, James Coombe, Eid Goh

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