In 2022 2A1M Studio were appointed to explore a wide range of options for the development and refurbishment of a semi-detached property in Weston-Super-Mare. The property is situated at the southern end of a stately avenue of large Victorian Villas, built from rough faced blue lias and fringed with dressed sandstone features. Mature trees and generous, well-kept front gardens line the road and complete the impression of a ‘grown-up’ neighbourhood, with any architectural tinkering firmly and discreetly confined to the rear.
Our building has clearly not read the script. Built in the 1920s on a leftover parcel of land, it and its twin are rotated ninety degrees to the principal street elevation to face a railway line that closed with the Beeching Report shortly after the houses were constructed. The road was subsequently extended to the south but remains bisected by a loose green swathe that marks the former railway and sidings. This has left the property curiously at odds with its surroundings, both in terms of appearance and orientation, like a naughty child forced to stand in the corner of the classroom and face the wall.
The central design themes of the brief was height and light. Both of which were undermined by the foursquare nature of the existing house. It’s tight, gloomy central corridors lead to external doors on three sides, further adding to the impression that the building is not quite sure which way it faces. The client’s deep love of mechanics emerged with time, and he eventually admitted that if he could, he would make the whole house a workshop and sleep on a camp bed in the corner.
From a sprawling array of options and evolving requirements for family accommodation, a brief emerged for a new workshop extension in a cluttered side (or rear, depending on which way you judge the house to be facing) alley, affectionately known as Steptoe’s Yard. Additionally, the first floor bedrooms would be taken up into the pitch to increase their height and allow them to be flooded with top light. Selective demolition on the ground floor would break up the oppressive circulation and a new warm roof would bind the whole ensemble together, playfully referencing the fine examples of arts and crafts housing in the area.
Like the school child in the corner, there is something cheekily irreverent about the design. It takes advantage of its oddball character to introduce a new typology and a new colour palette, embracing difference and turning it into attribute that lifts the building and the street as a whole.
2A1M Studio side extension is now in for planning. Fingers crossed.