Renergising visit to the low energy house

Tom Hughes
The New House, Maplebeck

The New House, Maplebeck

I visited the North Nottinghamshire village of Maplebeck today with a group of 1st year students architecture from Nottingham Trent University. We were there to visit the New House, as guests of 2hD's wonderful clients Roger and Sue Bell. The students also visited the new Maplebeck village hall by Marsh Growchowski Architects and the nearby Hockerton Housing Project.

The students are learning about sustainable building design as part of their first year technical studies, so these three real-world low energy projects will be a boost to their understanding. For me personally it was great to return to Maplebeck and hear how well the house is working and how happy Roger and Sue are with the design. As the sun came out during the day we watched as the solar array pumped out nearly 7Kw of electricity, meeting the house's tiny energy demands with ease, charging the Tesla battery and exporting the excess to the National Grid.

Perhaps the only sad point of the day was to reflect on how unusual low energy housing still is considered in the UK. When I was taught as an undergraduate student in the early 1990s by Brenda & Robert Vale, they were completing their own house in Southwell, itself the culmination of research dating back to their 1975 publication "The Autonomous House". Four decades after that book, and a quarter century after the autonomous house in Southwell, we are still looking to the NEXT generation of architects, builders and developers to make sustainable housing the norm rather than the exception.

Let's hope today's visit has inspired some of the NTU students to integrate sustainable principles seamlessly into their creative processes!

Kudos to Roger and Sue for hosting us, to Derek Sayer of the Maplebeck Village Hall committee for tours of that building and to Chris Marsh, my NTU colleague for arranging the visit.

2hD Director Chris Heuvel appointed RIBA Fellow

Tom Hughes

Our director Chris Heuvel is one of only 15 architects to be awarded Royal Institute of British Architects Fellow status in the 2018 list. The RIBA says of the award that "Fellow Membership gives us the opportunity to recognise our inspirational Chartered Members, the sometimes unsung heroes of the profession, who have made a real contribution to architecture, and the community."


Chris' full citation reads as follows:

"Chris is a Director at 2hD Architecture Workshop and a lecturer at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), where he delivers the professional practice elements of both the undergraduate and postgraduate architectural programmes, in addition to acting as Professional Studies Advisor for students in practice. He also runs the Design Studio module followed by first year undergraduates.

Chris champions architectural education as an integral aspect of professional practice, and is currently undertaking a major research project on behalf of NTU into how practitioners’ engagement with their local communities can be compatible with their business development objectives. All his teaching is substantially informed by a lifetime of active involvement in community engagement projects – previously in Norfolk and now in Nottingham, where (in conjunction with 2hD Ltd) he is currently helping a local group develop a business plan for the revival of their recently closed community centre."

Congratulations Chris, the recognition is thoroughly well deserved!

Our self-builder clients share hands-on experience

Thibaut Devulder
Appointing an architect has been one of the most valuable expenses of the project. I guess that it varies with the architecture practice you are working with, but for our project, 2hD have worked perfectly and have created a home totally adapted to our lifestyle and our constraints. Nothing to do with our original basic plans, nothing at all. Everything was taken into accounts: daylight, connections between the spaces, their volumes and their different levels...
Béranger Hau, client and self-builder for our Gabillou barn conversion project

Our client building the new staircase of the converted barn, using massive oak boards sourced from a local sawmill. 

With now ten years of experience as self-builder, transforming a old stone barn in Dordogne (France) into their dream home, our clients Béranger and Mélanie look back at their amazing achievements.

Over these years they have realised virtually all aspects of the building process themselves — from groundworks and water recycling system, to carpentry and furniture making. They have now decided to give back to the self-building community by sharing all their experience in a great article on their project blog (in French), touching on subjects as varied as project planning, finance and tips on how to not hurt your back on a building site...

2hD started to work as architects on this project as soon as Béranger and Mélanie purchased the run-down stone barn, back in 2006. And we have worked hand-in-hand with them ever-since: helping them define a solid project brief, developing sketch design alternatives, selecting adapted and affordable technical solutions, but also creating custom 3D models of the barn to guide them through the self-build construction process.

Amazingly attentive to details and quality, they are now proud owners of a stunning home, as well as experienced carpenters, plumbers, furniture makers and SketchUp 3D modellers! And they even received an award for their work...

Discussing the usefulness of working with architects in self-build projects, this is what our client Béranger has to say:

In the end, even if your project is not as large as ours and does not (legally) require an architect, we strongly advise you to appoint one. You will have all the drawings, and thus a definite vision of what your home can be. And this brings a lot in terms of motivation and anticipation.
Béranger Hau, client and self-builder for our Gabillou barn conversion project

You can read the full article on our client's project blog.

Chris interviews Turner Prize winner Assemble

Chris Heuvel

In conjunction with my research into how architects can develop their practice through engagement with members of a community, I will be hosting a talk by Lewis Jones of the 2015 Turner Prize winning collective Assemble

2hD director Chris Heuvel (left) with the speaker from Assemble, Lewis Jones (right)

2hD director Chris Heuvel (left) with the speaker from Assemble, Lewis Jones (right)

My interview will be conducted in public as part of the Norfolk Contemporary Art Society's programme in The Curve Auditorium, Norwich Forum on Wednesday 6th July 2016 at 7:30pm.

For more information, see the NCAS website.

Community inspired architecture

Tom Hughes

I teach with fellow 2hD Director Chris Heuvel at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and I'm a director of Sneinton Alchemy — a Community Interest Company based in Sneinton, 2hD's local neighbourhood in Nottingham. Sometimes this mix of roles is a bit demanding, but more often than not there's a symbiosis, bringing strength and depth all round.

And so it was with a recently-completed project to design a small community allotment building for the "Growin Spaces" project in Sneinton.

Alchemy has been training a team of Community Organisers over the last few years: dedicated individuals who go out into the community to listen carefully to people on the streets, in pubs, in mosques, churches and homes. They listen to the young and old, to workers, business owners, those in power and the disenfranchised. They build community networks and gradually empower people to take action, follow their dreams and build a stronger community. And it works.

Growin' Spaces

One "proof of the pudding" is the Growin' Spaces project - set up by Stevie Doig. He had an idea about a community allotment which, over time working as a volunteer Community Organiser, he built into a reality. Listening with our team at Alchemy helped him build the mandate he needed to get the wider community on board. This ensured the sustainability of the project and gave him confidence to make broader links and gain important contracts and supply lines.

Now Growin' Spaces has transformed many abandoned allotments into productive growing space, providing work experience and structure for long term unemployed along the way. The project also feeds hundreds of local people each month, using allotment produce and "Fare Share" food wasted by supermarkets.

Low-tech architecture

The success of the project has generated the need for small buildings on site at the allotments. Initially a place to shelter and lock up equipment, this might expand over time to provide a learning space and other facilities. So Stevie asked me, with my 2hD hat on, if I might be able to help him explore design ideas.

I teamed up with Chris and we identified an opportunity at NTU to create an architecture studio student design project. Chris got the students out on to the allotments, meeting Stevie and his volunteers, and pitching-in with some clearance work. This experience inspired them to create imaginative but buildable designs for a small wooden building using low-tech timber framing. 

Stevie and the Community Organiser team then came to NTU to interview the students and select their favourite designs. These projects were displayed at the "Our Sneinton" public event, with a winner being chosen by popular vote. Over the summer, the building will be built!

Great outcomes, including for NTU meeting a number of the objectives of its new Strategic Plan, including "enriching society", "valuing ideas", "creating opportunity" and "empowering people".

So for 2hD, NTU, Sneinton Alchemy and Growin' Spaces, it´s a win, win, win, win situation.

Community inspired architecture at its finest!

Chris' doctorate research proposal accepted by NTU

Chris Heuvel

Further to our social sustainability ethos, we want to learn more about how we can grow as a practice as a result of (rather than in spite of) our involvement in community engagement activities.

This topic has been recognised by Nottingham Trent University School of Architecture as a suitable subject for investigation within the context of their professional doctorate programme, and Chris has therefore been developing a formal research proposal since the beginning of January.

Chris would welcome any correspondence on this subject: please read his Practice and Community blog and email him with your comments or suggestions.

Weaving space: an exhibition of student design work

Tom Hughes

The Master level architecture studio project that 2hD's Tom and Alina ran at Nottingham Trent University this year has concluded with an exhibition in the University's Arkwright building.

The exibition was designed by Alina and featured a dress by fashion designer Kula Tsurdiu (the project client) alongside selected work from the architecture students.


Weaving space: student exhibition

Tom Hughes

Alina and I are leading the Vertical Studio module this year at Nottingham Trent University, as part of the MArch (Masters in Architecture) course. It's a 10 week design studio delivered to both cohorts of the MArch course, aimed at bringing in practitioners with a particular set of approaches, whilst introducing new students to NTU and preparing final year students for their major dissertation projects.

We've decided to build the studio around the notion of weaving — both as an approach to understanding one way of making structure and space and as an analogy for the multi-stranded assemblage of information, knowledge and ideas that go into an architectural design project.

The site we've chosen is what we've termed an 'urban appendix' — a former thoroughfare truncated by the building of Victoria Station in Nottingham, and then overshadowed by its replacement, the Victoria Centre. This unloved backwater will be stiched back into the urban fabric by housing a dressmaker's shop, design studio and workshop.

During the first week the students were set the ambitious target of putting on an exhibition of exploratory models. Following visits to Kula Tsurdiu (acting as client) and the NTU textiles exhibition and weaving workshops, the students investigated techniques of stitching, pleating, weaving and fusing to create their models. It was great to see a lot of careful investigation and reckless experimentation coming together in a short space of time — the students really responded to the challenge and we look forward to seeing their designs develop over the coming weeks.

Self-build land shelter gets its roof

Tom Hughes

I spend a great couple of days helping put the roof on the shelter Alina designed for Iona School in Nottingham. The shelter structure consists of 8 larch tree trunks supporting a circular deck and a plywood reciprocal frame roof. Now topped with turf it blends in with its woodland setting from some angles and takes on an almost temple-like appearance from others. The shelter will be used as an outdoor classroom for pupils at the school, which offers Steiner education with activities often based on the land. 

You can find out more about the shelter, the build process and the people involved at the project blog.

Lost Cuckoo workshop at NTU

Thibaut Devulder

Furthering our exploration and experiments using the cardboard module developed for the Lost Cuckoo project, Marcus Rowlands and 2hD Architects ran two "lectures" at Nottingham Trent University.

Images by Marcus Rowlands and Matthew Mouncey

With the participation of staff and students from the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, and in a lecture hall setting. This was, however, not your standard lecture format: the starting point was for each person to build a module, then to team up and build an assembly, and finally to bring everything together to create a space-within-a-space... in which the 'lecture' would happen.

Video by 2hD

Portfolio project
The Lost Cuckoo

Thibaut Devulder

We have put together this short video about our Lost Cuckoo project with artist Marcus Rowlands from the DVD produced by the Lakeside Art Centre, who hosted the event last year.  The project was great fun and we are looking forward to developing this concept in other art festivals this year!

A public art and participation project by Marcus Rowlands artist and 2hD architects, involving pupils, parents and staff from Brocklewood, Melbury and Portland schools in Nottingham. Funded by The Arts Council, Lakeside Arts Centre and Nottingham Education Improvement Partnership, with support from Faspak and Staples. Original footage and sound by Vent Media. 2011.

The Lost Cuckoo project was commissioned and supported by the Arts Council England and Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

Portfolio project
A stone memorial for a Jewish congregation

Tom Hughes

This project is the result of our combined interests in public art, craftsmanship and education. Starting as a student design competition that we organised at Nottingham Trent University for the Nottingham Progressive Jewish Congregation, our design process became an involved exploration of traditional stone walling techniques and complex numerical modelling to create a solemn yet welcoming landscaped space.

This project was shortlisted for the RIBA East Midlands Award for Architecture 2011.

The completed stome memorial, with collaborating artist Igor Barteczko

We were approached by the client to create a memorial structure for their congregation’s cemetery on an exposed hillside with excellent views over the Trent valley. We proposed, set up and ran a design competition for students, then collaborated with the winner to bring the project to completion. We redesigned the competition winning entry, working with the student in the role of project artist, to ensure buildability and adherence to a very restricted budget.

Our innovations on this project include a rejuvenation of traditional craft building techniques and the use of three dimensional computer modelling to achieve the twisting shape using stonework. We developed a custom plugin for our 3D modelling software to help us explore alternative geometries with the stone masons and produce the required three-dimensional templates for the preparation of the curved ashlar stonework.

The first commemorative plaques, on the curved ashlar.

The resulting structure creates a strong sense of place with an intense focus for ceremonial purposes, whilst also framing views out and welcoming visitors in.

The Memorial viewed from the cemetery entrance.

2hD in RIBA journal

Thibaut Devulder

A great article on East Midlands regional architecture practice has appeared in the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects. It features 2hD's Alina Hughes talking about her dual roles in practice and education, and the importance for the region of retaining talented graduates.

Adventure Play Centre

Tom Hughes

It's nice to get a recommendation and to support local projects!

This play centre is in need of extra space for an office and creche, and wants to make use of sunken no-man's land corner of their site. However they have no resources for the project until they get funding, and to get that they have to run the idea past the local planners and other stakeholders.

Sometimes in situations like this we can help to break the deadlock by putting a little bit of work in 'up front'. A local contact who we worked with on the Sneinton Trail project put us in touch with the play centre, we went to take a look, and turned out these simple drawings. It's a start.

On one level this is just a feel-good thing to do, but it isn't purely altruistic: it means that there might be a real project sometime in the future (one which would improve our community), we build up a huggable reputation, we might get another recommendation out of it, and we can write and illustrate some self promotional material like this.

Portfolio project
Creative spaces in schools

Tom Hughes

Working with Creative Partnerships, artists, teachers and school pupils, we have explored the idea of creativity and how spaces can be made which support creative activities. While space in schools is traditionally divided up using subject and year-group boundaries, educational theory is increasingly coming to recognise the value of project-based creative work.

"How will schools of the future adapt to support new ways of teaching and learning?"

We were approached by Creative Partnerships (now known as The Mighty Creatives) to get involved in two projects in local Nottingham schools.

Initially attracted by 2hD’s user-centric approach to design and interest in active consultation, artists working at Mellers Primary School asked us to help in the process of involving teachers and pupils in imagining a future creative space. We worked initially with the staff and artists to open up a conversation about ‘what might be’ at the school, understanding the problems of the existing building but also making the potentials more apparent. We then observed the work of the artists with the pupils, compiling and analysing some of the outputs from that process.

A second project followed at Manning Comprehensive School for Girls, an intense collaboration with a teacher and group of sixteen Year 9 pupils. The objective of the project was to explore the nature of ‘creativity’ as it relates to our work as architects. We ran a live design project with the pupils, taking them through the process of converting an existing crafts room into a flexible creative space.

Using examples of our own processes, inspiration from books and a visit to the art and design studios at Nottingham Trent University, we enabled the pupils to develop, present and debate their own design ideas. This culminated in an exhibition at which pupils from the whole school could vote for their preferred design of the new space. We then took those design ideas and worked them up into a presentation which will be used for fundraising to build the project.

2hD’s impact was in developing a lasting understanding of the creative processes and demonstrating to young people that creativity isn’t just about having good ideas. That has to happen within a framework of understanding the issue, consulting others and evaluating how far your ideas meet your original intentions.

2hD also acted as a bridge between the school and higher education which had a significant impact on the girls.
Jo Gogelescu, Deputy Head at Manning School for Girls