Visuospatial Fluidity and Continuity

Cover. Dollis Hill Avenue, London, UK [2019]. Architecture: Thomas-McBrien Architects. Photography: Ståle Eriksen.

The basic function of the walls, floors, and ceilings of our homes, is to satisfy our need for security, for a protected habitatation. In contrast, the visual and spatial relationship between interior and exterior space, inside and outside, the private and the public, is defined by passages - the most primitive form of opening. They connect the two - creating sequences, rhythm, movement, freedom, and openess between people and places. During the day, the Sun - a rich source of natural light and heat - penetrates through it to enliven and reveal the colours and textures of the space. With its shifting patterns of light, shade, and shadows, the Sun animates the space, and articulates the forms within it. They also provide views out, a way of observing the outside world from inside. If, like Aristotle, we consider the eyes to be the mirror of the soul, then it is only a short step to believing that a building's openings reveal its character, its architectural essence.

The act of making a passage raises the question of how to close it - an opening enables connections, but does not prevent them, so porte-fenestres or door-windows are created to do this. The underlying principles are few and broad. There is, first, a new conception of a door as a large beautiful picture window that can be opened or closed rather than as a solid movable barrier with a primarily defensive function. Secondly, in front of each door-window, especial attention is given to the creation of 'living screens' or 'natural paintings' which are always changing and expressing the beauty of every season. These two principles, in combination with the careful positioning of sitting space; draws the gaze towards the brightness of the light and gives the feeling, that the architecture is inviting one to take time to sit awhile, rest, and enjoy some quiet contemplation. 

The method by which this relationship is established, is typically based upon the adaptation or remodelling of the existing circulation, movement or flow between the main living areas of the home and the 'garden'. This process can be broken down into two stages: intervention and insertion. Intervention is a procedure that can often be as destuctive, as it is constructive: the works will strip away, remove, clarify, undo parts of the building that serve to suppress or prevent a two-way spatial continuum between inside and outside. Interventions are often small, non-structural subtractions or cuts of the masonry wall or parapet below the existing 'picture window' facing the garden. Insertion is the introduction of a new window-door into the new opening. These openings are detailed with a beautifully crafted and elegantly decorated internal wall, that frames the light and the view, so that we see it as a painting on a wall, as well as cleverly diguising high-performance wall insulation

Typical features of the insertion are large, swing wood-windows characterised by slim cross sections with clean lines and floor-to-lintel double laminated safety glass; mechanically fixed premium performance insulated plasterboard; a precise and exact 12mm shadow gap along the edge of the enclosing plane; natural clay plaster wall finishes; a deep-set and pronounced solid wood, square-edge box-frame along the edges of the opening; and specially arranged or fitted 'filters' that provide effective privacy, noise reduction and intrusion prevention, in the night-time as well as during the day. 
Note 1
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Strategic Diagramme

Fig.1 Dead Space

Fig.2 Intervention

Fig.3 Prospect

Fig.4 Refuge

Note 2. Dead Space
Semiprivate and private residential outdoor space in which one sees concrete covering land which once supported hundreds of varieties of plant and animal life; a hedge or a tangle of bushes; one or two private cars, and the preternaturally ugly ‘wheelie bin’; but few people, if any, because conditions for outdoor stays [the key word is staying] is more or less impossible. Under these conditions most residents prefer to remain inside, what are most certainly sensory-reduction environments, in front of the television – the greatest mind control tool ever created.

Note 3. Intervention
Floor, wall, and ceiling planes serve to define and isolate a portion of space. Of these, the wall plane, being perpendicular to our normal line of sight, has the greatest effect as a spatial boundary. It limits our visual field and serves as a barrier to our movement. Intervention is a procedure often distinguished by a small, non-structural cut or subtraction of a parapet – the wall plane below a window facing a semiprivate front yard or a private backyard. Without a parapet to block, a window gives way to a porte-fenetre, merging inside and outside, home and garden - both visually and spatially. 

Note 4. Prospect
People prefer environments and spaces that provide unobstructed views or vistas from multiple vantage points, so that internal and external areas can be easily surveyed and contemplated for both opportunity and hazard. In natural environments, prospects include open terrain, copses of shade trees, an understory of herbaceous flowering plants, bodies of water, and evidence of human activity or habitation. In human-created environments, prospects include open or semi-open floor plans, deep, elevated terraces and balconies, the generous use of windows and glass doors, louvred or slatted filters and screens, and thickly planted shrubberies less than or equal to 1m [42in].

Note 5. Refuge
People prefer the edges, rather than middles of spaces; spaces with ceilings or sheltering canopies overhead to provide protection from weather; spaces with few access points [i.e., protected at the back or side]; and spaces that provide a sense of safety and concealment, retreat and withdrawal – for work, protection, rest, contemplation or healing. In natural environments, refuges include enclosed spaces such as caves, dense vegetation, and climbable trees with dense canopies nearby. In man-made environments, refuges include roofed, open-air architecture, lowered colours, temperatures or brightness, and translucent [or semi-opaque] shades, blinds, screens or partitions.

Fig.5 Porte-fenetre

Note 6. Porte-fentre
A wood, weather-stripped frame and a single side hung – outward or inward - sash around a two-pane insulated glazing unit, serving as a window and a door. The conventional use of two window sashes – one active, and one non-active leaf - is deliberately avoided in order to maximise the amount of natural light passing through the opening as well as minimise the visual impact of window bars and sashes, as the sitter gazes towards the brightness of the garden. Perhaps, more importantly, it becomes part of a living concept that allows for an easy progression from indoors to outdoors, with decks, terraces and gardens seen as natural extensions of personal living and dining space.

Orthographic Impressions

Fig.1 Whole-house ground floor plan incl. enfilade 1.40

Fig.2. Ground floor plan @ rear and front reception thresholds 1.20

Fig.3. Longitudinal elevation @ street/semiprivate front yard 1.32

Fig.4. Longitudinal section aa @ semiprivate front yard 1.32​​​​​​​

Fig.5. Longitudinal section cc and ground floor plan @ front reception threshold 1.20

Fig.6. Longitudinal elevation @ passage/private backyard 1.32

Fig.7. Longitudinal section dd @ private backyard 1.32

Fig.8. Longitudinal section ee @ private backyard 1.32

Fig.9. Longitudinal section ff and ground floor plan @ back threshold 1.20

Fig.10. Cross-section hh @ semiprivate front yard 1.12

Fig.11. Cross-section hh @ private backyard 1.12

Isometric Cross-Sections

Fig.1. Section hh @ existing front picture window 1.16

Fig.2. Section hh @ front porte-fenetres 1.16

Fig.3. Section hh @ front porte-fenetres/lintel junction 1.2

Fig.4. Section hh @ front porte-fenetres/threshold junction 1.2

Fig.5. Section hh @ back porte-fenetres 1.20

Fig.6. Section hh @ back porte-fenetres/threshold junction 1.4

Fig.7. Section ii @ front porte-fenetres 1.8

Fig.8. Section ii @ front porte-fenetres, box frame/thermal insulation junction 1.2

Internal Decorative Finishes
Above. Natural Clay Plaster [Grey, Olive & Brown]. Brand: Clayworks.
Construction or Working Drawings

Fig.1. Whole-house ground floor plan 1.40

Fig.2. Ground floor plan @ front and back thresholds 1.20

Fig.3. Ground floor plan @ back threshold 1.4

Fig.4. Ground floor plan @ front porte-fenetres/brick cavity wall junction 1.2

Fig.5. Longitudinal section aa @ semiprivate front yard 1.32

Fig.6. Longitudinal section bb @ semiprivate front yard 1.32

Fig.7. Longitudinal section cc @ front facade 1.32

Fig.8. Longitudinal section cc @ existing front picture window [incl. demolition works] 1.16

Fig.9. Longitudinal section cc and ground floor plan @ front porte-fenetres 1.16

Fig.10. Longitudinal section ee @ private backyard 1.32

Fig.11. Longitudinal section ff @ back facade 1.32

Fig.12. Longitudinal section ff @ back porte-fenetres 1.8

Fig.13. Longitudinal section ff @ back porte-fenetres 1.2

Fig.14. Cross-section hh @ front porte-fenetres 1.12

Fig.15. Cross-section hh @ front lintel/threshold junctions 1.2

Fig.16. Cross-section hh @ back porte-fenetres 1.12

Fig.17. Cross-section hh @ back porte-fenetres 1.6

Fig.18. Cross-section hh @ back porte-fenetres 1.2



Soft strip
Removal of Window Components, External Cill, Architectural Moulding incl. Architraves, Cills and Skirting, Furniture, Floor Coverings, Pipework, Radiators.

455x1330mm Wet Cutting of Brick/Brick Cavity Wall

Masonry work
Façade Restoration [using masonry extracted and demolished]

Moisture and thermal protection
65x150mm Cast Stone Type 1 Cill, Cavity Insulation: 2mm White Non-Water Absorbing PVCu with 50ml Earthwool DriTherm Cavity Slab

Open | Close

1330x2485mm Open-In French Door on Factory Hung on Black Nico 3D Adjustable Hinges with Espagnolette Locking, Latch and Mortice Dead Lock

Frame profile
30x160x2500mm Planed All Round Green Oak

Sash profile
60x144mm Engineered European Redwood Top & Bottom Stile, 60x100mm  Engineered European Redwood Lock & Side Stile

4x16x4mm Clear Glass Double Glazing Unit with Low E Argon Fill.

Glazing bead
12x12mm Square Edge Engineered European Redwood

68x144mm Hardwood 

Internal Wall Insulation [IWI]

Frame profile
25x50x4800mm Treated Softwood Timber Batten

Thermal laminate board
40mm Thermal Laminate, 9.5mm Plasterboard

12x12x3000mm Z Shadow Bead [AS5510], 12mm Lightweight Plaster, 2x1mm Clayworks Smooth & Tonal Finish

Box Frame: 30x140x2500mm Planed All Round Green Oak Door Reveal, 30x160x2500mm Planed All Round Green Oak Threshold
In-between Space 2024
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