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!

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!

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.

Aalto campus competition entry submitted

Thibaut Devulder

The competition was for design of the new School of Art, Architecture, Design and Media (50,000 sqm), together with the masterplanning of the central square for the largest university campus of Finland, close to Helsinki. The site is surrounded by iconic modernist buidings designed by Alvar Aalto, who originally also masterplanned the campus.

We submitted the entry last week and it was great fun collaborating on this project with the team at Various Architects — with whom we are now sharing an office space in Oslo. The competition is anonymous, so it is not possible to show images of our entry yet, but the shortlisting for phase two of the project should be announced in November 2012.

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.

A living-room in a children's home

Tom Hughes

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the making. I spent Sunday volunteering at the site of our Childrens' Home project, helping them to get the building phase of their Living Room project underway.

The shared living room, before we started

It's been a fascinating project to be involved in. We were approached by The Mighty Creatives who were looking for someone who could work with the staff and residents at the Home to redesign their living room, making use of IT to communicate and visualise the process. In the end, we used StickyWorld and SketchUp with the LightUp plug-in… and if we could have found another software with a JoinedUp name, we'd have considered that too.

It's a tiny but intense project, and I found the design process really challenging. Working on occupied houses is always pretty involved, as being invited into the home requires a great deal of sensitivity to residents' preferences and relationships. At the same time, your own knowledge and experience as 'the professional' needs to be given a voice. As you'd imagine this particular living space is charged with a lot of meaning for many different people... But, by working together, we gradually achieved a design that everyone could take pride in.

The idea is that as much of the making work as possible is done by the staff and residents of the home, but I invited myself along on Sunday to lend a hand as they got underway. The electrian had already been in to do the first fix, so the next stage was setting out the studwork for the 'portal' feature, the lighting raft and the storage/entertainment wall. We made pretty good progress- a bit slowed by the effort of breaking up the world's densest fireplace hearth, but by the end of the day the design was beginning to pop off the page and in to the space. I loved being there to see this happen and hope to be back again as the project progresses.

In the meantime, we made a little film to celebrate the success of the collaborative design, and keep spirits up during the hard messy work ahead:

Living Room Project from 2hD Architecture Workshop on Vimeo.

Lost Cuckoo report

Thibaut Devulder

The Lost Cuckoo project culminated last weekend with an event at the Wheee! International Childrens' Theatre and Dance Festival at Nottingham's Lakeside Arts Centre. Nearly 1000 visitors participated in this live public art project, building imaginative and gravity-defying structures.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, we designed with artist Marcus Rowlands and families from three schools in Bilborough, a cardboard building “module”. In essence, a box with a “secret corner” that could be popped in to join boxes together at interesting and unpredictable angles.

We've blogged about the project before: You can read more about the process, the event, and catch up on our live blog from the event itself.

We really enjoyed working on this project and are very proud of the results. This is largely down to our brilliant collaborators: Marcus Rowlands, Ruth Lewis-Jones from the Lakeside and — most importantly of all — the children, parents and staff from Portland, Melbury and Brocklewood schools.

Thanks also must go out for the generous support given by the Lakeside Arts Centre, the Arts Council England, Faspak, Staples and Nottingham Education Improvement Partnership.

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.

The Lost Cuckoo takes flight

Thibaut Devulder

We have started work with artist Marcus Rowlands on the Lost Cuckoo project. Working with families from 3 schools in the Bilborough area of Nottingham, we will collaborate on the design of a bespoke cardboard module or system. This will be used by the families and visitors at the International Children’s Theatre and Dance Festival in the live creation of an interactive community sculpture.

In our first set of workshops we asked families to build with standard cardboard boxes and colourful tapes. They produced an amazing array of sculptures and spaces, pushing the boxes to do the unexpected and giving us plenty of inspiration to start the design of our special module.

Further workshops will run over the months until the Festival, on June 4th and 5th at the Lakeside Arts Centre.

This project is being supported by the Lakeside Arts Centre, the Arts Council England, Faspak and Nottingham Education Improvement Partnership.

2hD at Lincoln Architecture Society

Tom Hughes

The Lincoln Architecture Society invited 2hD along to give a talk as part of their evening lecture series. I was genuinely impressed by the professionalism of the students who run the society — an excellent welcome pack in my email a few days before the event giving all the info I needed to get to there and a warm welcome and introduction.

Here are a few of the slides from my talk, which covered the Sky Vault project, the barn conversion in the Dordogne, our work on the NTU architecture course, Mission Control (our hairy micro-office), our Structures on the Edge shortlisted competition entry and the inflatable event space.

Their lecture series looks great — it brings kudos the the Lincoln School of Architecture and is definitely worth checking out if you are in the East Midlands. Take a look at their website.

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.