Hart Street Home – Architecture of Contemporary Materials

A House for an Architect

Hart Street Home was initially recommended refusal by Edinburgh City Council Planning Department.  Fortunately, Councillors voted to reject this advice and allowed construction to go ahead.

The house was designed by architect Richard Murphy for the purpose of living in himself.  It would be Richard’s last project before retirement and he freely admits the house is ‘over-designed’ to encompass every idea into one small project.

Hart Street Home occupies approximately half of an existing garden between the back of houses on Forth Street and the gable end of houses in Hart Street in the New Town of Edinburgh.

Since its completion in 2015, it has won a 2016 RIBA Award, was named Channel 4 “House of the Year,” as well as a 2016 Edinburgh Architectural Association’s “Building of the Year” Award and a 2016 Civic Trust National Award.

Talking about his project, Richard Murphy OBE, RSA said: “Designing for yourself is not easy.  My friend Murray Grigor remarked that “my indecision is final!” Now aged 60, I won’t be designing another so the danger is that one tries to get every idea one has seen or had into one small project.

“I freely admit that the house is perhaps “over-designed;” it certainly is not intended to be an exemplar and definitely not a prototype.  It has been an enjoyable vehicle to develop a lifetime’s themes and now it gives me great pleasure to both live there and to hear the remarks of the many visitors it has hosted over the last year or so.”

The house is designed to achieve a number of architectural ambitions.  Firstly, it acts as a ‘bookend.’  The roof, made up mostly of glass with inset photovoltaic cells, is designed to ensure daylight and act as a major collector of solar energy.

The front façade continues the stonework pattern of the street façade concluding with the idea of “an inhabited ruin.” Even when a building is completely new this is a theme which frequently reoccurs in our architecture when building in historic places.  The ‘new’ architecture is layered with contemporary materials of glass block, steel, burnt timber and lead used in a tectonic way contrasting with the solidity of what might be a pre-existent  ashlar stonework ‘ruin’ to either side.

Within the ashlar is a pattern of tiny windows (which sit amongst the shelves of a giant staircase-bookcase inside) and these play on the ashlar stone construction with corner windows reminiscent of coin-stones, but in the negative.  As with the adjacent tenements, the ashlar turns to rubble at the rear where the whole elevation becomes a much freer composition.

At a glance;

Architects; Richard Murphy, Gareth Jones, James Falconer, Tersius Maass.

Client; Richard Murphy

Engineers; Create Engineering

Photography; Keith Hunter