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David Liddicoat - Liddicoat & Goldhill

2nd Sep 2014

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Founded in 2009 by David Liddicoat and Sophie Goldhill, Liddicoat & Goldhill’s portfolio is underpinned by projects built with their own hands, featuring unique buildings in precious urban and rural settings. Named as one of Wallpaper*’s ‘Future 30’ in 2009, Liddicoat & Goldhill was also shortlisted for Architect of the Year Award 2013, with Goldhill also shortlisted for Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award in 2012. Their work has been exhibited at the RIBA, Architecture Foundation, the Rotterdam Architecture Biennale, NLA [New London Architecture forum], The Turner Contemporary and the Royal Academy of Arts. The obsessive pragmatism of the studio’s work is balanced with teaching and collaboration, and academic and studio-based research.

When asked about how their works are influenced by the world we live in, the firm are quick to expand on two of their projects, The Thousand Trees House: a private house in Essex and The Orangery in London's Wimbledon. David Liddicoat provides us with a further insight...

“Our client for The Thousand Trees House [still in progress] is a long-time resident of a Grade-II* listed Regency house in Essex, who came to us to explore his vision for building a unique eco-friendly dwelling. Inspired by the local East Anglian vernacular, and by the architecture it spawned in the New World, we developed a contemporary design for an autonomous, sustainable timber-built house. With new-house construction on virgin countryside anathema to current British planning policy, a particular clause [PPS7, nicknamed ‘Gummer’s Law’] fortunately granted us the build of an exceptionally environmentally project that upholds unequivocal architectural merit in a rural setting, and thus work for The Thousand Trees House began…

The strongest influence is deliberately North American. The project was inspired by the pioneering spirit of the site's former owner, who began the colonisation of New England, taking Anglian rural architecture with him. We have re-imported these ideas, making a barn-like house that draws on Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie houses and the formal adventurousness of John Lautner, who were both interested in organic architecture. We brought this right up to date, using parametric design to form the complex over-sailing roof. We always refer to UN Studio when considering such tricky geometries, especially in a small building.

The Thousand Trees House, with its 6,000 sq ft, will nestle into its wooded setting. Its form is derived from the topography of the working wooded pit, amplifying the slopes and curves of the excavation and merging with the growing trees. The sculpted curves of the roof trace and amplify these different contours. Made using reciprocal frames, the roof upholds a structural system in a state of perpetual collapse seen in primitive structures such as tepees, and refined into the mathematical bridge at Queens' College, Cambridge. The timber will be assembled using Japanese carpentry techniques. The house’s form is not wilfully organic: it is an extension and amplification of the immediate topography. We were also influenced by Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, who deploys humble materials in inventive ways throughout all of his house projects."

"One of our greatest projects, The Orangery involved a double-height back extension and ground-floor reorganisation for a growing family. Having lived in Wimbledon with their four sons since 1989, our clients came to us to adapt the house to their evolving needs. “The neat 1930s house is one of a collection built on a steep hill overlooking south London. Its original design apparently ignored the ground on which it was built; from the street, it sits comfortably on the site; from the rear, the living spaces float a storey above the mature garden, which is left feeling aloof and separate. This disconnection is also felt inside: the generous space provided at basement level is poorly lit and truncated from the upper parts of the house.

To reconnect the spaces, we drew inspiration from architects Wespi de Meuron [Cavanio, Switzerland] whose extraordinary houses contain spaces of immense clarity on tricky, sloping sites. Our design involved a bright new living space, floating halfway between the existing kitchen and basement pool room levels. The space operates independently and as a connecting device. The new space, conceived as an Orangery, is a lantern. It gathers sunlight for the deep living spaces within, and generously opens the interior to the garden below. A sheer-glazed wall built 'inside out', with the slender steel framing externally, allows for comfortable use of the window bench. We love the work of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma who takes one or two materials and makes them work really hard – in this case the glass is actually structural, supporting the bracing steel fins, which doubles as shading devices and make regulating lines that compose the view to the garden.

As big fans of Gilbert & George, we are always intrigued by how an image or view can be empowered by subdivision. ‘Although the details may have Eastern inspiration, when considering proportion we always refer to our travels to Rome, in particular to Trajan's forum and the Temple of Maxentius. This is an essential pilgrimage for students of architecture; those buildings still haven't given up all their secrets.

The kitchen enjoys improved views while at the same time allowing for separate and private operation of each of the living spaces. Slender steel-framed glazing gives the new structure a sense of fine fragility, while the use of oak in the bespoke furniture to the orangery, the new staircase and the kitchen joinery forms a material continuity between the new spaces and the old. American architect Olson Kundig always inspires us with its bold combination of materials, simultaneously raw and luxurious.”


Watch a collection of Liddicoat & Goldhill films on YouTube

Discover more about Liddicoat & Goldhill on the Domus Nova Architect Guide

Liddicoat & Goldhill, Studio 6 at 13 Ramsgate Street, London E8;