It’s been an incredibly busy few weeks for us. Some of our first projects are now moving onto site as we finish off construction drawings and help clients select builders to undertake the work. Lots of new enquiries have been coming in too, from people wanting to alter their homes to provide modern family spaces within older properties, to new build homes, to expanding businesses needing to grow their accommodation to ensure their employees have enjoyable and inspiring workplaces for the future.

Alongside these jobs, we’ve been reimagining streets in Newcastle as part of the RIBA North East StreetScape competition, which looked to improve use of the city for all in light of the Silver Linings Report published by the RIBA earlier this year and Newcastle’s commitment to being an Age Friendly City. Our proposal sought to re-prioritise junctions on the edges of the pedestrianized city centre for the pedestrian rather than the car, using road junctions on each of the compass points as a defined public space. North became an Education Corner, linking to the nearby university, East a Theatre underpass with rising bollard seats. The South became a social space is developed on the cross roads between Clayton and Newgate Street. The West of the city is the closest point to St James Park, taking on this sports use, road markings form a street games area with enlarged zebra crossings prioritise pedestrians and rise from the ground to close the road and form tiered seating for spectators to view the sports junction. We had great fun preparing our entry and were delighted our scheme was one of the shortlisted entries and put on display in the RIBA Architruck in Newcastle last week.

Thread Architects_Streetscape 2014
Our shortlisted StreetScape entry

As well as this, Andy has been busy a member of the OPUN Design Review Panel in the East Midlands. This has included reviewing proposed new country houses that have been submitted as a planning application using Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Framework (NPPF) which allows exemption from all planning constraints for individual houses that meet specific criteria in locations that the local authority planning departments would normally not permit, such as isolated areas of the countryside and in greenbelts. The caveat is that the design of your home must be either architecturally outstanding or have a high level of innovation. In many ways the latter is the easier approach – innovation can be quantified or clearly demonstrated by using new technologies or be highly innovative in the use of materials. The alternative is to ensure the highest quality of architectural design can be clearly seen in the home, but this is obviously more subjective and can be trickier to achieve. The process is high risk and can be very expensive with no guarantee of gaining permission. However, if your heart is set on your dream home in the country then it could be amazingly rewarding and result in a new house that sets the bar for the future. More information on Paragraph 55 and some of the best built examples can be found on the Homebuilding and Renovating website.

Rachel has been busy getting her hands dirty on her own self build project. Testing the theory that self-build is possible on a shoestring budget if you do the majority of work yourself, the outline of a two storey extension to the side of her house in Stannington is starting to slowly appear in the ground. The extension sits adjacent to the existing house, and forms a contemporary timber clad box that provides a third bedroom and study at first floor with a front door, extended kitchen and a single storey green roof dining room spanning out into the garden below. To get the project started, all of the existing services had to be relocated – incoming gas and electric meters have been moved by the relevant authorities over the last few weeks and now the site is clear, excavations for the foundations and drainage are underway. Trying to undertake the majority of work ourselves to save on the budget, we have had help from a friend with a mini-excavator to dig out the foundation trenches, with the smaller drainage trenches painfully dug by hand! The next step is for the jigsaw puzzle of pipes and connections to be formed together on site to get the new drain that runs below the extension in place and all the existing wastes reconnected and out of the way before the concrete foundation can be poured, ready for a thermal block upstand and timber frame to sit above. We’ll keep you updated with progress!

Thread on Site - High Matlock Road 1 - Sept 14
The start of a self build – on site at High Matlock Road