Thornton Road is a typical mid-terrace house that lies in Fallowfield, a suburb three miles south of Manchester city centre. Opening out directly onto the front garden and street, the relatively sober facade is articulated by small window openings that express a clear distinction between the interior and the exterior. Within, a long and thin footprint is characterised by wall planes that limit the visual field and serve as a barrier to movement between surrounding interior spaces and the garden at both front and back.
The client – inspired by the chaan or terrace of a traditional Thai house – wishes to create a set of generous, fluid and almost uninterrupted multi-functional spaces that not only draws in rich, natural light but also gently connect with the outdoor zones. To achieve this, major alterations to the existing configuration of external and internal openings were combined with; floor-to-ceiling sliding windows and screens that allowed spaces to be read as part of the overall space or to be easily separated and transformed into more private and intimate zones.
To foster a closer sense of communion with the outside and the natural: easily accessible wooden terraces for relaxing, dining and entertaining in the fresh air were complemented with the precise positioning of particular pieces of furniture. The client, moving through the spaces, would be presented with a series of set views in which he could sit back, relax and gaze towards the light, the subtle day-to-day routines of birds and wildlife, plantings, the cycle of the seasons, the open skies, gorgeous sunsets and celestial objects that dot the sky at night.
Dubbed a “Home For The Future”, it is his hope that, on the one hand, the project delights his senses and helps him to dwell more peacefully and lightly on this beautiful Earth of ours; and on the other, help to inspire change as well as lead the way into a new and more sustainable future: a future in which we all reunite with, as historian Thomas Berry so eloquently describes: the creative energy of the universe and overcome our destructive spiritual estrangement from the source of life.
The specific choice of materials and textures advocates a more “organic” approach: grey-green trowel-on coating with matt metallic charges for the walls of each space; grey tumbled limestone tiles for the floors; wood effect rectified porcelain tiles and natural brass decorative junctions for all thresholds and square-edged European oak for the skirting and architraves. The materials are put together using a minimalist approach: a precise 6mm shadow gap between the floor, the walls and the openings.
In the past few decades, aspects of nature that reduce stress, improve well-being and expedite healing has been tested empirically and it appears that exposure to nature produces emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual benefits. Evidence of this evolution in design thinking is found in Terrapin Bright Green’s 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design. These patterns helped guide Walls Can Be More and the tactics employed in the remodelling of the building can be seen as the manipulation of architectural and interior elements in support of this pioneering work:
- Visual Connection with Nature
- Non-Visual Connection with Nature
- Thermal & Airflow Variability
- Presence of Water
- Dynamic & Diffuse Light
- Connection with Natural Systems
- Material Connection with Nature
Low Carbon Building Design
We also find approaches to biophilic design that integrate and expand the role of the sun in reducing or eliminating our unnecessary consumption and dependence on natural resources for space heating and lighting. This includes the integration of ancient techniques for harvesting, storing and releasing the free and natural energy of the sun for heat and light; state-of-the-art heating and lighting technologies and; aesthetically beautiful approaches to achieve a high-performance building envelope.