Creating a roof garden in central Oslo

Thibaut Devulder

We have just been exploring alternative options to create a terraced garden on the roof of an existing residential block in central Oslo. Our clients — a housing cooperative — wanted to create outdoor social spaces that could be used by all residents and accessed with minimum alterations to the existing building.

Coordinating with the builder, a structural engineer and a fire engineer, we developed three alternative sketch design approaches with various level of complexity and size, each complete with an outline budget, scope of work and timescale.

These design approaches will be reviewed on their annual meeting by the residents and, once a preferred options is selected, we will be proceeding with the detailed design and planning application for the project over the summer.

The existing roof terrace, currently not accessible.

The existing roof terrace, currently not accessible.

Portfolio project
Between a house and a cliff

Thibaut Devulder

For this small landscaping project, we were approached by our clients who have just bought and refurbished a house overlooking Østensjø, a large lake on the outskirts of Oslo.

Located on an elevated spot, the house and its west terraces enjoyed wonderful open views to the neighbouring lake (Østensjø). As a counterpoint, the rest of the outdoor spaces were tucked on a very tight site, terraced over three different levels and have been neglected in the recent years. A 8-metre high cliff backed the property to the east, overgrown with wild vines and bergenias, creating a lush cascade of vegetation and rocks.

Our client asked us to outline a strategy for making the best use of the tight exterior spaces, spread over three terraces, and organise it so that both adult activities and children play could blend together harmoniously.

Carefully analysing the existing opportunities offered by this intricate space, we designed a string of private and social spaces around the house, each with its unique feeling — from serene and secluded to social and vibrant— articulated by a central winding stair that doubled as a playful “tree house”.

The “cliff” of vegetation at the back of the property, with its lush vegetation cascading down the rocks.

The “cliff” of vegetation at the back of the property, with its lush vegetation cascading down the rocks.

We will be following up the work on site with our clients, impatiently awaiting the children’s feedback on their new playhouse! In the meantime, here are a few of drawings from our design process.

Portfolio project
A sensitive contemporary extension

Tom Hughes

How to extend a 1930s 'Arts and Crafts' style detached house? One approach would be to mimic the original building, but that's not always the most sensitive or responsive solution.

The proposed extension takes a back seat to the original house

Our clients asked us to extend their house over a dilapidated single storey 'lean-to' garage, to provide a couple of new bedrooms. They also needed more ground floor space to connect properly with their garden.

Looking at the street scene, it was immediately clear that development pattern was characterised by detached houses with relatively low-key side extensions, containing garages, porches and sheds. To extend with a typical two-storey pitched-roof building would change this pattern and detract from the prominence of the 1930s house. Instead we proposed a subservient, low pitched roof that would sit below the existing building's eaves and drop down into the slope of the land. This would be clad in dark-stained vertical timber boarding, reminiscent of a number of 1930s modernist buildings - a different style but still contemporary with the original.

The extension sits into the sloping site to protect neighbours' views and daylight

Having consulted neighbours and the planning officer, we carefully explained this strategy through our planning application drawings and Design and Access Statement (DAS). This latter document is often seen as a bit of a token gesture on small scale project like this, but we see it as an opportunity to explain the care we have taken in our design and the various options considered along the way.

Massing options considered during design development

We were successfully able to make a case to go against the planning officer's pre-planning advice to use a pitched roof —  it was a sensible suggestion and not one we rejected out of hand, but by careful analysis of the particular setting of this building we arrived at the conclusion that in this case, a pitched roof would not be the best way to go.

The end result will be a sensitively designed contemporary extension that extends the living space and amenities of the home without impinging on the neighbours or detracting from the proud character of the original house.

 

 

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.

Assembly manual for custom-designed furniture

Thibaut Devulder

In the summer cabin we redesigned on the Oslo fjord, we articulated the main living space with an open screen that had to perform many functions: create a light visual separation within the open plan space, provide storage for outdoor clothing and shoes for up to ten guests, integrate a large TV and offer seating in front of the new wood stove.

We finalised the design of this custom-made furniture as the project was already on site and decided to build it out the same oak bench plates used for the new kitchen. We created detailed instructions for the builder about how to make and assemble this large piece of furniture. Our instructions even included the detailed cutting patterns to minimise waste from the standard benchtop boards used to make it!

Rudsveien remodelling underway

Thibaut Devulder

Our remodelling and extension of a a family house in Bærum is progressing well, with the structures of the new garage and extension completed, and the new insulated cladding and windows installed. The interior spaces have also been opened up, starting to reveal how the interior spaces will key into one another and into the garden.

In the snow

Thibaut Devulder

The Hvitsten cabin under construction, in the snow...

From the window niche in the play area, overlooking the snowy approach and the existing annex cabins

Hvitsten — a seaside resort on the Oslo fjord where we are redesigning a cabin — can still be pretty cold in winter. Yesterday's visit to the building site showed me an aspect of the project I hadn't experienced yet: the summer cabin in the snow.

Part of the client's brief was to make the cabin comfortable to use all year round, so I could finally put our design to test, overlooking the snowy landscape from its cosy interior.

The interior is nearing completion and the new oak-clad storage wall was being installed, with its integrated kitchen and window niche in the play area.

The new kitchen and storage wall being installed

Portfolio project
Remodeling a family home in Bærum

Thibaut Devulder

We have just finalised the design for the remodeling and extension of a family house in Bærum, near Oslo. The detailed drawings package has now been sent to potential builders and, before construction starts this spring, we would like to share some of the ideas behind our design approach.

Sketch view of the redesigned home, approaching the new entrance

About our clients

Our clients, a young Norwegian couple with a toddler, had purchased a derelict detached house in the neighbourhood of Gjettum. The existing house had been divided into two rental apartments, one on each floor, connected by a shared entrance staircase.

Their plan was to merge these two floors into a single family home, where they would live and host frequent gatherings with their large extended family. The structure and footprint of the existing house was to remain mostly unchanged, but its fabric upgraded to meet modern environmental standards. Our clients were also considering the option of accommodating a rental apartment within the house, to create some additional income until they needed the whole house for their growing family

The existing house

The general feeling of the existing house was somewhat claustrophobic: the redundant spaces created by the two identical floor plans, the small cellular rooms and window-less corridors, the few oversized windows... All contributed to the impression of undersized spaces. A large garden surrounds the house but this was completely disconnected from the interior. It was also mostly spoiled by a garage and a long driveway to the south boundary of the site, which made the approach to the building unwelcoming.

Floor plans of the existing house (click for full view)

The existing house, viewed from the street approach

Our design strategy

An obvious solution would have been to extend the house to open up the main living spaces. However, as in many of our projects, we focussed on making the most of the existing building. Key to this approach was to reconnect the various living spaces — both interior and exterior — so that the different architectural functions could flow into one another.

Our design strategy, as presented to our clients during the sketch design phase. Drawn on top of the floor plan of the existing house (click for a full view)

Connecting the social spaces

Our first step was to move bedrooms to the upper floor, so that we could gather all social spaces on the ground floor, just a step away from the garden. We then removed a few internal walls to open two long perspectives across the whole ground floor. This created a close connection to the garden, making it both visible and easily accessible from all living spaces.

These spaces — where eating, relaxing and socialising take place — naturally organised themselves around these open lines, articulated by the existing staircase and a new wood stove. Each living space is designed with its own sense of scale and openness. Yet, it can be used as an extension of another, giving maximum flexibility both for everyday life and for the large social gatherings that our clients love to host.

The kitchen — the natural heart of the house for the family — is now placed at the very centre of this plan and is connected to all surrounding social spaces. A screen of open shelving wraps around the kitchen, to subtly shelter it and discretely accommodate storage, appliances and a study (that doubles as an accessible guest bedroom) on the north-east.

Opening up to the garden

Each of the living-rooms extends to the garden through large French doors: on the south-east, onto a large timber terrace stepping down to the main garden, and on the south-west to a more private terrace that opens the dining room to the evening sun. Since all windows had to be replaced, we took this opportunity to redesign many of the openings to the garden, drawing daylight from different directions in all spaces and carefully framing attractive views to the outdoors.

To the south, we created a new functional and welcoming entrance to the house that also accommodates an accessible modern bathroom. Both this small extension and the new garage (relocated closer to the access road) are designed with similar flat roof details and horizontal cladding, contrasting with the taller existing house. Together, they frame an attractive new approach to the house that echoes the traditional "tun" of Norwegian farmyards, under the dappled shade of newly planted cherry trees.

An overview of the ground floor in relation to the garden (click for full size)

The remodelled basement, with its separate rental apartment

The private spaces

A new family bathroom and four bedrooms are located on the upper floor. One of these rooms doubles up as a separate TV/play room, where extra guests can stay overnight.

The basement is also remodelled: two thirds of it are transformed into a comfortable self contained apartment, which will be rented out to tenants before becoming an integral part of the house for family guests and teenager children. The large new windows bring plenty of daylight into the space and the separate access to the north and landscaping create a small private garden for the tenants. The remaining space in the basement accommodates a large washroom, as well as the technical installations and storage.

Comfort and sustainability

As part of the remodeling, we upgraded the whole house to meet current energy conservation standards, externally insulating the fabric of the building and replacing the existing windows with highly insulated ones.

We also made the most of the panoramic wood stove on the ground floor by coupling it with a modern balanced ventilation system: diffusing the stove heat in the whole house — including the four bedrooms upstairs— we could design the house so that most of the heating needs would be provided by renewable firewood, while also keeping optimal indoor air quality.


Construction work started in summer cabin

Thibaut Devulder

First site visit to our seaside cabin redesign project in Hvitsten, where construction work started a few weeks ago. The new interior spaces are starting to take shape...

A visit to the self-built barn

Tom Hughes

I was lucky enough to visit Béranger and Mélanie during the summer to see the progress they've made on the barn. It also turned out to be the day after they got married!

 Barn, home, labour of love, wedding venue... 

The exterior of the building, the main space, kitchen and master bedroom are completed with heroic attention to detail, leaving the upstairs bedrooms still to do. After a break in the internal works Béranger and Melanie plan to knuckle down again over the winter to see how much they can finish.

Casting a critical eye from the future study space. 

The existing roof timbers and stone walling are offset by contemporary insertions

The exterior shell retains its barn-like simplicity

You can follow progress on the project via our clients' blog, or check out our previous barn related posts. Congratulations to our clients on their dedication and sheer hard work... Good preparation for married life!  

Au revoir! 

Creating a flexible outdoor social space

Thibaut Devulder

For this small project, we were approached by clients who wanted a sheltered space to host their frequent outdoor social events. We helped them design an integrated and flexible garden structure, to create a comfortable outdoor microclimate, whatever the weather or the occasion.

Our client, enjoying a late summer evening in the transformed terrace

The house already had a well-exposed adjacent terrace, but the the westerly wind and rain showers often disturbed the frequent social gatherings organised by our clients. They were looking for an affordable solution that would provide them with flexible configurations for the various social occasions (from small family dinner to large work events with 20+ guests).

Analysing each use scenario, we focused on creating a solution that would integrate well with the existing hard and soft landscaping, yet remain flexible in its use and the degrees of shelter it could provide.

In particular, we wanted to keep the space as open as possible to its surrounding. So we opted for a system of retractable textile roofs and glass screen walls, so that the outdoor space could function well throughout the year, whatever the weather, the number of guests and the type of activity it would host.

In parallel to this design process, we investigated both custom-made and standardised garden structures. We eventually converged towards a hybrid option, whereby we customised an existing pergola system to tailor it to the specific needs and taste of our clients and to the site, keeping the project on budget and allowing for fast-track installation — on time for the Norwegian National Day!

Testing furnishing configurations and checking their feasibility using standardised and custom-made elements, we refined the design with the clients to converge towards the final built result.

Our clients have since then sent us some nice photos, having enjoyed their new outdoor space from early spring to late autumn, hosting many social gatherings with family and friends!

Portfolio project
A seaside cabin in Hvitsten

Thibaut Devulder

Sketch impression of the remodeled cabin, looking at the fjord from the playroom

We love to design cabins, as they bring together so many of our design interests.

First, our predilection for architecture in remote (and often sensitive) natural locations, to create small thresholds where man meets nature, where minimal environmental footprint and limited access call for an economy of means.

And we are fond of designing tiny spaces — creating places rich in human interactions and intricate functions where people can really "key in" with the architecture, bringing back the simple joy of being together, sheltered from the elements.

But as importantly, cabins also act as social nodes where the complex community of the different generations in a family or in a group of friends congregate, each with their different needs, expectations and desires, making for a challenging but fascinating briefing process.

This redesign of a seaside cabin in Hvitsten, on the shore of the Oslo fjord, brought all these aspects together and was a nice counterpoint to our earlier design of a skiing winter cabin in the mountains of Hedmark.

A small stream flowing between the existing cabins

About the project

As is often the case with Norwegian cabins, our clients for this project spanned over three generations. Initially built in the 1950s by the great-grandfather, the summer cabin and its small sleeping annex have been used ever since by the family for spring and summer holidays.

The extended families are now struggling to all fit in the cabins, which has become both too small and in need of repair. Now retired, the grandfather and his partner also want to use the cabin a lot more throughout the year, so they needed the uninsulated cabin to be upgraded for the winter climate and wished to have a real bathroom installed.

All had cherished childhood memories of the cabin and wanted to preserve as much of its exterior aspect and rustic character as possible. So, their requirement to comfortably fit in up to twelve sleeping guests for occasional extended family gatherings called for inventive remodelling and renovation, considering their tight budget!

Looking at the existing cabins

Perched against a steep rocky hillside overlooking the sea, the cabins face south-west into a breathtaking view of the Oslo fjord and its slow ballet of sailboats and cruise ships.

The Oslo fjord, as seen from the main cabin

Plans of the existing cabins

In the main cabin, the small living room actually had a large window opening towards the fjord, but the kitchen and meal area — central to family life in the cabin — were situated behind it, in the darkest part of space of cabin, right against the rock face to the north. The other facades of the cabin were essentially blind because of a small hallway and the two bedrooms to the west. As a result, the main daytime social spaces had no visual connection with either the covered porch to the south-west or the sleeping cabin to the west, both of them often used in the mornings and evenings for informal meals and drinks.

Typical of spaces with light coming from only one direction, this configuration made the living room and meal area appear strangely gloomy, as the large window created a glare effect in contrast with the other darker and unlit interior surfaces. Built to look straight onto the fjord through this large window, the space had only short interior perspectives, making it appear more cramped and small than it actually was.

Situated a few meters downhill and to the west, the sleeping annex had a quiet simplicity to it, nested in the overgrown vegetation and straddling a small stream in the rocks. Unfortunately, an improvised shower had been installed inside a few years back without proper ventilation and created damp problems, so that in addition to being overcrowded, its sleeping rooms had also become uncomfortable.

Welcoming everyone

The initial plan was to integrate the existing porch into the main cabin, to create an extra bedroom. While this made sense to accommodate more guests, we all agreed that this compounded some of the existing problems, in particular closing off the main cabin from the fjord.

From two to fourteen sleeping guests! (click for full size) 

Turning the problem around, we actually removed one bedroom from the main cabin, thus keeping only one for the most frequent occupants of the cabin: the grand-father and his partner.

We carefully checked the feasibility of our proposal by preparing a comprehensive list of use scenarios, from one couple to up to fourteen sleeping guests! We found that moving the shower out of the sleeping annex, ventilating it properly and making some slight adjustments to its interior layout and bedding would allow eight people to comfortably sleep there. All this could be done at minimum cost, so that most of the available budget could be dedicated to the main cabin.

Now remained the task of optimising the shared daytime spaces in the main cabin. And this was essential: every parent can imagine the intense atmosphere when up to three families, including young children, are stuck together indoors for a whole rainy afternoon! Thus, in addition to creating functional living quarters, we also needed to organise sub-spaces within this small cabin, so that everyone could define his or her comfortable own space.

A niche in the rocks

We approached this task from two different angles.

Our design strategy for the remodelling the main cabin, drawn over the plan of the existing cabin (click for full size).

First, we created two different sub-spaces: one for the adults, facing the fjord, more social and relaxing, and one more playful for the children, cradled against the vegetation of the shaded cliff face. These two spaces intersect around the dinner table, the natural converging point for the whole family.

Then, we connected these spaces to the outdoors by nesting these sub-spaces around generous openings — not just towards the fjord, but also towards the sleeping cabin wrapped in overgrown vegetation down to the west, the mossy rocks at the north and the sunbathed terrace to the south — to create a dual feeling of spaciousness and enclosure.

Sketch impression of the remodeled seaside cabin, looking across the living room

Although the main living space remains compact, it feels opened to the light patterns and textures of its natural surroundings.

Frequently eating out during the summer months, the kitchen and dining area extend out onto a terrace that is stepping down, so as to maintain unobstructed views of the sea horizon, even when terrace parasols are used or the large awning on the south facade is deployed. The terrace also acts as a connecting point between the main cabin, the play garden and the shaded path to the sleeping cabin.

The proposed plan for the main cabin (click for full size)

Fitting it all together

Space was very limited inside the main cabin, so we concentrated most of the storage along the west wall, designed as a large oak surface perforated by the kitchen and large window niche where children can sit and play. To make sure that everything fitting nicely, we produced a detailed specification for these densely fitted interior — both in Norwegian and in English, at the clients' request.

We love to involve our clients in the building process. And since one of them is keen on woodworking, we had a design session together to develop together the design of open screen between kitchen and sitting, which also will also integrate coat/shoe storage, seating, a book shelf and the TV equipment. He will later on build it himself.

The very basic existing drainage and electric systems were upgraded to cater for the new bathroom and appliances. The cladding was damaged and needed replacing, so we insulated the whole building fabric and fitted new energy-efficient windows. Along with a flexible shading system and ample provisions for natural ventilation, our clients will be able to enjoy their cabin all-year round!


Porch complete

Tom Hughes

The Geze sliding door works like a charm and has appropriately minimal lines.

Our clients have sent us these pictures following the successful completion of their "porch that turns a house around".

The porch features a brick plinth that creates a seat within the space, and a superstructure made of standard sized galvanised steel channels. At the top of the structure, the channels form structural gutters which carry the rain away without the need for an overhang.

The overall effect is of a large three-sided window frame: one window faces the sky to allow natural light into the existing kitchen window, one holds the welcoming entrance door and the third frames views down the garden from the kitchen sink.

Simple looking projects are not always easy to complete, and the glazing contractor found it impossible to get the right door components from Geze UK for this one. However a couple of nicely worded emails to the uber efficient head office in Germany unlocked the supply chain and the key component eventually made it to site.

In place, the sliding door works like a charm and has appropriately minimal lines... Everyone happy in the end!

The upper channels are structural gutters, channeling water away without requiring an overhang.

The upper channels are structural gutters, channeling water away without requiring an overhang.

The porch has a brick plinth/seat with the main structure in galvanised steel. A high proportion of glass allows plenty of daylight in through the kitchen window and maintains views down the garden.

Portfolio project
A skiing cabin on Sjusjøen

Thibaut Devulder

Entrance of the existing cabin

Planning permission has been granted to our project on the stunning settings of Sjusjøen, north of Lillehammer, Norway.

Overlooking the well-known Norwegian cross-country ski resort, this small mountain cabin, built in the late 1960s by the client's parents, had become too small for her extended family. The client wanted to remodel and extend it to accommodate family gatherings. With no running water in the kitchen and only two sleeping spaces, the cabin also lacked sufficient indoor storage to accommodate more than two guests.

Emotionally attached to the cabin, the client wanted our intervention to address these issues, yet preserve the modest scale of the building, as well as most of its interior and exterior finishes and furniture — some of them hand-made by her father.

We tackled the challenge by extending the cabin towards the west. Shifting the entrance to the other side of the cabin greatly simplified winter access, avoiding snow drifts from the roof and reaching out closer to the car parking space. More importantly, this allowed us to create a central spine running through the extension.

Linking together the extension and the existing cabin, this spine accommodates extensive storage spaces serving the master and guest bedrooms, where luggage can be droppped on arrival without cluttering the living rooms.

Clad in timber slats, contrasting with the other materials of the cabin, the spine acts a functional and visual link between old and new, sheltering the sleeping quarters from the common spaces.

At the end of the spine, minimal reorganisation of internal partitions allowed for a compact and comfortable kitchen and bathroom, with minimum alterations to the existing plumbing.

The wind lobby and storage were moved from the original access to the new entrance, with the addition of a ski preparation room. In their place, a new living room was modelled into the existing building fabric — opening up the cabin to the fantastic views to the wild marsh on the east and the sun's warmth to the south.

Externally, the extension matches the scale and appearance of the existing cabin. The two bodies however are connected by a section with a lower roof and cladding matching the sheltering slats of the existing entrance, clearly identifying the new from the old.

Inside, most of the floor and wall finishes of the existing wing are preserved. The new spaces, to the west and south, however, contrast with their sloped ceiling and stained boarding.