Old Shed New House

Tonkin Liu, Great Ouseburn, 2017


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The site sits at the ‘wild’ end of what was once an impressive garden, stretching back from a house further west 

Greg Storrar     Download Original

  • The site sits at the ‘wild’ end of what was once an impressive garden, stretching back from a house further west    
  • Timber framing in the perimeter walls, together with plywood sheathing, provides longitudinal and lateral stability    
  • The original three-bay steel portal frame of the agricultural shed was extended longitudinally and vertically and propped with internal columns    
  • A canopy extends out at first-floor level to shield the interior from the southern sun    
  • The double-height corridor    
  • The kitchen    
  • The library occupies the centre of the plan    
  • The library room    
  • A bathroom    
  • One of the bedrooms    
  • Location plan    
  • Site plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • First floor plan    
  • Section AA    
  • Section BB    
  • Design concept    
  • Corner detail plan    

This conversion of a disused agricultural shed is in perfect harmony with its sylvan setting. 

Tonkin Liu’s clients had been searching for several years for a quiet rural site on which to build a home for them to live in following retirement.

There were two primary requirements the house needed to meet: space to exhibit the clients’ collection of artworks and a library room. It was decided early on that, not only would the existing shed’s small structure be kept, but it would become the structure of the house itself.

The original steel frame of the shed was retained, dismantled, its legs extended and then reconstructed. It was braced by a new plywood wall structure, plastered over internally and given a new galvanised steel exoskeleton externally.

Usefully, the shed sat almost perfectly on an east-west axis, aligned with the tree-lined approach, and so the plan could take some cues from this: bedrooms to the east, dining and living to the west.

The main entrance sits at the eastern end, with the kitchen island at the other, forming an ‘altar’ with command over the space. Along the ‘service’ edge of the building sit what feel more like giant poche spaces, with a large cut-out for kitchen appliances and a cloakroom squeezed under the stairs. For a house of this size it is an incredible chunk of space to give over to what is essentially circulation, but it is here, along with the library, that most of the project’s ideas bubble to the surface.

The exterior pays homage to the ‘delicacy’ of the birch tree. Referencing the wooden cladding typical of sheds, the elevations are defined by vertical bands of larch planks, with variations in the tightness of their stacking and their width. The finishing touch is a tall flue from the living room’s wood-burning stove that sits on the southern elevation.

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