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Megan Townsend Unit 22 Year 5


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Three Dwellings


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A Retreat For An Idealistic Imagination Imagination

‘The world is full of nice, ordinary little people who live in nice, ordinary little houses on the ground. But didn’t you ever dream of a house up on a tree top?’ Swiss Family Robinson 1960


The Minpins By Roald Dahl - 1991 ‘Little Billy is forbidden by his mother to enter the forest of sin behind his house. She tells him of the Whangdoodles, Hornswagglers, Snozzwanglers and Vermicious kinds that live in the forest. Worst of all is the terrible blood sucking Toothpickling Stonechuckling Spittler, which chases its prey while glowing clouds of hot smoke pour out of its nose, and then swallows them up in one gulp. Little Billy doesn’t believe his mother, and the Devil whispers to Little Billy that the monsters don’t exist, and there is a plethora of lucious wild strawberries in the forrest. Soon, Little Billy is walking through the forrest when he sees something coming after him, and runs to escape it. As he looks back, he sees puffs of orange-red smoke catching up with him. He escapes what he is sure must be the Spittler byclimbing up a tree as high and as fast as he can. When he comes to rest, he notices windows opening up al over the branches, and descovers a whole city of little people, The Minpins, living inside the tree. The leader of The Minpins, Don Mini, tells Little Billy that the monster waiting under the tree is not the Spittler (which the Minpins have never heard of), but the Red-Hot Smoke-Belching Gruncher, who grunches up everything in the forest. It seems that there is no way for Little Billy to safely get down from the tree and return home. But upon learning of the close friendship between the Minpins and birds, Little Billy devises a plan to rid the forest of the gruncher: Little Billy flies on a swans back and uses his scent to lure the Gruncher into a lake. The water of the lake puts out the fire in the Gruncher’s belly, killing him. The Minpins are gratefulto Little Billy for ridding the forest of their tormentor. They reward him by sending the swan to serve as Little Billy’s own personal transport every night, which he uses to explore the world and to comtinue his new found friendship with the Minpins.’


I chose a site within my home town of Ware, Hertfordshire.

Located at the top of my road, on the top of the hill, the site provided a good viewpoint, as well as a connection between home, biving the user a feeling of freedom, as well as not severing that connection we all have with home, however old we are.

Larger trees are found deeper into the wooded areas, and this is where the tree dwelling will be sited. In a large Oak.


Inspiration for the initial form of the tree house came from the shape of the acorn.

The form of Oak pollen also, with it’s sperical shape.

The ‘Free Spirit Spheres’ company produces pods that hang within the Canadian forest.

This rolling house by Shedworks, is based on the form of a seed pod. The bent and steamed ply around a frame informed the form of my design.

This intial drawing was inspired directly from The Minpins story. I listed all of the provisions ‘Little Billy’ would need. This design is not just for him, but any child or adult who re-descovers their idealism. A trait that should be nurtured and not forgotten.

1 - The Tree Dwelling - A Suspended Timber Pod The initial ideas for the tree dwelling came from looking at ‘The Minpins’ by Roald Dahl by initially formulating a list of needs for the idealistic mind we all harbour inside. Also, research on the natural world, including direct inspiration from the site that will harbour the dwelling, the oak tree. The Acorn and the oak pollen are both spherical, leading to a design that portrays this natural link to it’s site and context. Whether that be children; within whom it is not inhibited, or adults; who’s loss of innicense and more mature world, allows us to strive for a reality that we can not otherwise achieve or experience within our every day lives. The tree dwelling strives to bridge the gap between idealism and imagination, providing a space for any ‘Little Billy’ to explore their imagination within a fantastical setting.

The final form of the tree dwelling I came to was a pod mounted between two large trees.

A sketch section through the pod, showing a built in chair and book shelves.

Elevation showing the pod opening and the window.

Short sketch section showing window, built in seat, book shelves and early warning bells.


[Academic use only]

[Academic use only]

Detail of steamed timber boards meeting at the top and bottom of the sphere.

A cross section of the wall of the pod. A curved frame with a double skin.

[Academic use only]

1 - The Tree Dwelling - A Complex Frame and Steamed Ply Shell The model was started by trying to create half of a curved shell frome. This would be replicated and joined together to form a complete sphere. Steamed ply would be used for the shell, and a softwood that could be steamed and bent into a smooth curve for the structural beams. There would be a double skin, so that the steamed ply forms the outside shell and the inner layer would be formed with fabric cladding, to provide thermal qualities, and a cosy feel to the pod. As the details show, much of this is quite hard to achieve, with simple but tricky to make details. When modelling this design at 1:20, it was hard to create a smooth form without deformation, and timber itself would not steam to the right degree without snapping. A larger scale model would have been easier to test the details and to produce a more complete and realistic model. (1:2 maybe.)

A detail of the join on the continuous bent timber struts forming the main frame of the sphere.


A cosy and inspiration filled interior

View back towards home

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1 - Cables attached to the pod and to a cuff on the tree(s). 2 - Secondary net structure to support the pods suspension. 3 - Primary timber rib structure of pod. 4 - Secondary timber structure and supports to create exoskeleton and climbing frame. 5 - Port hole to allow for views out of pod back to home and into the environment of the imagination. 6 - Interior built in book shelving. 7 - Curved built in seating. 8 - Access via a rope ladder and hatch.

1 - The Tree Dwelling - A Climbing Frame for Imaginations The pod would become a suspended climbing frame to explore and to hide within. The frame would become an extention of the trees, with the foliage over time growing to cover the structure. The suspension cables would be held secondarily by a rope net, suspended between the two trees, for the pod to rest on. The interior of the pod will become a snug timber clad sphere, with built in bookshelves and chairs for learning and reading to feed the users imagination. Views out of the pod should be concentrated on the view towards ‘home’, and out into the surrounding landscape of the forrest.

View out into the forest of the imagination


A visualisation showing how someone may use the retreat. The scale of which is meant to be emphasised as intimate and cosy.

1 - The Tree Dwelling - A Pod for the Individual to Escape from Reality The above visualisation aims to replicate the environment as well as how the user may inhabit the space. When sitting on the seat within the pod, the user should be able to access all things they may need, being the bookshelves, the window and the early warning bells are above their head. The pod should create an environment removed from all reality, the early warning bells aim to give the user the ability to know when someone is aproaching the pod. It also will ring when vibrations in the trees are detected, creating a direct link with the nature that the pod shares suspended between the trees. Nature and imagination are the two driving factors within the design of this dwelling.


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A Stage Set For Storytellers Fragility

‘Tree took account of road, which was aware of air, which was mindful of sea, which shared things with sun. Every element lived in harmonious relation with it’s neighbour, and all was kith and kin’ Life of Pi 2001


Life of Pi By Yann Martel 2001 ‘As a teenager in Pondicherry, India, Pi is constantly exploring new opportunities and learning new things. his father is the propritor of the Pondicherry Zoo, where Pi learns much of the workings and raising of animals. Pi grew up Hindu, but descovered the Catholic faith at the age of 14. He convert, and later again to Islam. He adopts all three as schools of thought. At 16, Pi’s father decides to move the zoo to Canada, due to the new developments in Parliament. The animals and family are loaded into the same boat. On the journey to Winnipeg, the boat sinks. All are lost, except Pi, a hyena, zebra and a 400 lb tiger called ‘Richard Parker’, later an orangutan arrives too. Pi removes himself from the animals by constructing tarpaulin and staying above. The animals eat eachother, until only Richard Parker remains. Pi gets scared and so constructs a floating raft that is attached tot he back of the boat. He learns how to catch fish, and sets about training Richard Parker. They share food, and slowly over time, begin to bond. Food is scarce though, and they both become quite ill. 7 months pass and they are struggling. They lose their sight and come across another blind man floating in the icean too. They talk, and eventually the blind man tries to board Pi’s boat, intent on eating him. Richard Parker does not allow this, added to his hunger, he attacks the man and eats him. Pi cries about it, but his tears clear his sight and they continue their journey. They eventually come across an island of algae. Pieats the algae to regain strength and sleeps in the boat at night. Richard Parker eats the meerkats that live on teh island and sleeps in a tree. They soon find out the island is carnivorous and so hastenly leave. Finally, after floating along further, Pi spots land and disembarks in Mexico. Richard Parker runs off into the woods, and Pi is rescued by two men, who owned the boat that sank. He recounts his 227 day story, but they don’t believe his fantastical tale.’


I chose a site within my home town of Ware, Hertfordshire.

Located on the banks of the river Lea, the chocolate dwelling will bridge the gap beween the land and the river. Opening up the oportunity for story telling.

The banks and the river are historically a place where trading and transport took place. It is a metaphorical and physical link between towns and settlements.


Bamboo curtain creating a more permeable facade as the dwelling cantilevers out over the river.

Teak decking as traditional boats use.

2 - The Chocolate Dwelling - A Centre for Local History The above was a first sketch, putting together my initial ideas for a structure contructed of boat making methods, that sat within the river but was attached to the land. The ribs of the boat would form the main structure and support the roof, as well as allowing secondary structure to be suspended off of it. The dwelling would be open to the public and house events, performances and materials to teach this public history of the local area. It would bridge the gap between enclosure and the local landscape, so that the history being learnt could directly be informed by the location. This history could take the form of story telling, as Pi within his recount of past events did, local stories could be told by residents etc.

Oak planks to be sourced local to the site of the dwelling.

Structural ribs of the dwelling to be constructed in historic boat building material and using traditional techniques.


Rye House Pleasure Garden

The Great Bed of Ware

Transport of Hops and Barley

Royal Swans on the River

These images of the local area I propose are translated from reality, into the design, by becoming four of the major structural ribs. These then become part of the dwelling, taken from the exststing stories of the surroundings, but also the start of the stage sets within.

2 - The Cholcolate Dwelling - A Sage Set for Storytellers This more refined sketch showshow the elements taken from the local landscape and its history can start to directly inform the design of the dwelling. The local history I am using to create the ribs of the boat structure are; 1 - The Rye House Pleasure Gardens - Located in Hertfordshire, the pleasure gardens became an attraction within the grounds of a manour house, full of beauty and fun, people would visit to escape life’s reality. 2 - The Great Bed of Ware - A large bed, hand carved by a local craftsman, as an attraction for the town. Ware was a stop off between London and Cambridge, and the bed was situated within various inns in the town. It was mentionned in Chaucer and Shakespear, being renouned for being able to fit many people in, and being a hot-bed for faunication. 3 - Transportation of Hopps and Barley - Ware in particular was well known for recieving hopps and barley for brewing down the river. Long boats would transport the goods down the river, where it would be offloaded and dried within the town’s malt houses, many of which still exist today. It was such a big part of the town’s history, it features on the coat of arms. 4 - Royal Swans on the River - Ware and the River Lea has always been known for the huge numbers of swans on the water. They add life and beauty to the town throughout the year.

Below is Studio Weave’s ‘Freyas House’, which uses 2D ‘frames’ to create a magical window.


Main structural ribs to boat depicting local history ‘scenes’

Joint slotted onto main central spine of the boat construct

Upper deck and lower deck. Upper as a viewing gallery, lower as reading and learning area

Bent wood forming the main hull shape of the dwelling

Hand carved main spine to the structure, where all else is hung off

View from the other side of the river banks

The stage sets from local stories

2 - The Chocolate Dwelling - A centre for local and hand made timber craft My model above shows the construction at different stages of the basic boat structure, then references the more completed model showing how these elements come together to form enclosure and a craft dwelling that could act as an exciting and inspiring centre for loacl storytelling and learning local history. Each element bust be functional but beautiful, simple but be easily read to portray function and use, retain the historical boat building techniques but create a structural shelter, and become a beacon for the local community, but remain accessible for all.

The overall simple and traditional structure


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1 - Bamboo curtain becoming more sparse towards the cantilevered end. 2 - Main spine of the boat construction - hand carved from Oak. 3 - Sliding roof structure to allow for the cantilevered end to be opened up. 4 - Oak ribs of the boat structure, depicting local history iconography. 5 - Interior fabric lining for softness and warmth. 6 - Oak curved planks forming the hull of the boat and enclosure. 7 - Lower deck for teaching and learning and performances. 8 - Upper deck to allow viewing from the platform. 9 - Ballustrade.

2 - The Chocolate Dwelling - Taking the Landscape into Account The oposite visualisation aims to show how the boat construction of The Chocolate Dwelling sits on the banks of the Lea. The cantilever and the increasing permeability of the dwelling as it reaches out over the water, (see diagram above), aims to create a magical blurring of boudaries between solid ground and the magic of the waters surface. During the day, the reflections off the water, and at night the reflections of the light from within. The chocolate dwelling, as a stage set for story tellers, is a metaphorical and emotional link between the present, and stories of social history that would otherwise become forgotten.

The local history center in situ on site.


Diagram using sectional line of model

2 - The Chocolate Dwelling - Users and Transformation of the Spaces


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A Bath for an Executive Vulnerability

‘The Emperor was doubtful showing himself naked to the people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.’ The Emperors New Clothes 1837


The Emperors New Clothes By Christian Anderson 1837 ‘A vein emperor who cares for nothing, bires two swindlers who promise him the finest and best suit of clothes, from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position, or “helplessly stupid”. The Emperor can not see the clothing himself when he tries them on, standing naked in front of the mirror. He pretends, though, that he can, out of fear of appearing unfit for his position; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense, until a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of praising the emperors’ new clothes, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all, and the cry is taken up throughout the crowd. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but continues his procession with his head held high.’


I chose a site within the centre of London, Near Euston.

Located just off Euston road, this 60’s building offers closed in conditions and minimal connection with nature.

The Bartlett School is a prime example of typical 60’s buildings and offices across London. The roof of which is my specific site.


Chimney from water heating furnace

Water harvester on roof

Oak shingles on facades

Shunning the City - A Bath House for the Infallable City Worker

This dwelling will be situated on the top of a 1960’s style office block. It will be avaliable for the city worker to take a break from the indoors, or the husstle and busstle of the London streets. The process is important to enjoy the outcome. The feeling of vulnerability necessary to invigorate and take stock.

3 - The Chimney Dwelling - A Retreat in the City The above sketches show the two different options I was working with when it came to the seting of the bath house. - The left shows it sited in a reclusive spot in the forest, a retreat to totally escape reality and the hectic life in the city. - The second was to site it in the city itself, to provide a retreat and a bath house that could be used by a busy and stressed user, situated on the top of their place of work. This allowes the user to take time out of their hectic day to relax in a bath, where process and the means of heating the water and running the bath, preceeds the bath itself. This dichotamy interests me, and so I think the site I will work with will be the urban situation.

Sedum roof using warmth


Growth over time on the Bartlett facade due to run off of bath.

Bath house on the roof of the Bartlett

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Use of bath water from gutter to cultivate growth on the facade of the office building

3 - The Chimney Dwelling - Taking the Landscape into Account The visualisations of the bath house over time shows how the relaxation and excapism of taking a bath in the city, can not only enliven and envigorate the individual user of the bath house, but also have the same effect on the fabric of the city. As the bath water drains over the edge of the infinity bath, (the user only using natural products), the water falls down the shingled facade of the hut, and into the gutter at the base of the structure. This gutter has small permeable holes in, and so some of the water escapes and trickles down the facade of the building. Over time, this encourages a vertical cultivation of greenery and produces an alternative ecosystem within the city.


Option 2 - The city environment as chosen for a site. This option seeks to re-focus the mind by instilling the feelings of vulnerability and escapism on the user. Metaphorically speaking, the feeling of option 1 is created.

Option 1 - The bath hut as a portable hut, that can be picked up and placed on a site the user desires.

Below: The infinity pool at the top of the Sands SkyPark in Singapore by Moshe Safdie.

View out over lake in Scotland from within a bird hide, giving a complete view of the horison.

3 - The Chimney Dwelling - Views Out and Exposure The views out over the edge of the infinity bath must be just as fantastical as taking a bath in the open air. Whether your choice of location be a secluded forest, or on the top of your work place in central London, either is spectacular in its own right. The design of this bath hut must incorporate: - Views - Opening and permeable skin - A fire - Natural water usage - Feelings of vulnerability These key aspects I will try to design into my bath hut design.


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360 degree view of the bath house for the infallable city worker

3 - The Chimney Dwelling - 360° View of Bath House The view of each of the faces of the bath house model shows that I have tried to construct at 1:20 as acurately as possible. With hinges for doors and permeable openings, timber shingles for the cladding to direct water into the gutter, oiled wood in the interior and rain water drain and filter that would use a rain water recylcing system for the use of water for the bath. This model is a mini prototype for the scaled up version. I would however, have liked to have explored the fixtures and fittings, for example the infinity bath, further. As well as the posibility for opening up the window corner facade completey, so that the bather, situated in this corner, is completely exposed to the elements and the sky above. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if we looked up on our way home from work, and see the infallible executives, shoulder up, sat in a bath in a precarious position? We may laugh, but the experience they are getting is one we would all enjoy.

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Deconstruction of bath hut for a city worker

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3 - The Chimney Dwelling - Deconstruction and Portability The bath house was designed so that each two walls can come away from the remaining two. The floor has a lip so that the walls can slot onto the base. The roof also, slots into the four walls when they are put together. This means that the bath house can be deconstructed, moved and re-constructed in another location. The view is never ending and not limited, if you can simply move somewhere new. Due to the intimate nature of the hut, the size being no more than 3 metres by 3 metres floor area, there is no need for motorised or lorry transportation. Efforts can be made to transport the pieces using forms of transport that suit the mentality of a slow and considdered life outside the hectic world of the office.

Exploded drawing of the bath house, showing all intrinsic elements, including water and fire.


Detail of gutter found at the base of the infinity pool walls. A

A detail of the hinging roof to allow for more open air bathing. B

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Roof but jointed and pinned.

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Large slit at corner of the structure for infinity bath

Trough gutter at the base of the two walls to the infinity bath

Slatted floor for water to scape that furnace stands on.

Gib door that fits flushwith the interior and exterior finish

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3 - The Chimney Dwelling - Basic Timber Frame Construction The above shows the basic frame construction I have used to create the bath house. Simple platform frame construction allows for the joints to be but jointed together and nailed. This type of construction is light, but flexible in form, and means that a double layer of interior and exterior cladding can be implimented for thermal purposes. With the whole construction being made of one or few materials and a single method, it produces a compact and strong structure.

A cross sectional detail of the double skin panel construction, with teak interior and oak shingles. C


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1 - Rotating panels within the facade to allow for more light and exposure. 2 - Hinging corner section to the roof to allow for more exposure. 3 - Sedum roof. 4 - Water harvester and filter. 5 -Pulley system to allow for user to open roof. 6 - Gibb door so flush and continuous surface on interior. 7 - Oak shingles. 8 - Gutter to allow drainage down the facade of the building. 9 - Panoramic window and infinity bath.

3 - The Chimney Dwelling - Complete Design Elements My 1:20 model here shows all elements of the design together. The building becomes a continuous cycle of heat, water and growth. There were many more design experiments I would have liked to have tested with the basic structure I created. For example, I did want to have the whole of the window corner opening up, or hinging back, to expose the whole of the corner infinity bath. In this way, the user can open the building up, to allow for the rain to fall on the user whilst in the bath, bathe under the stars, or in the blasing summer sun. The feeling of vulnerability and exhilleration that the user feels when the whole corner is opened up, alongside the cantilever, enlivens them.


first 3 dwellings final