inhabited bookshelf

abstract model on black background

This is my first design project and still my favourite! We were asked to design a ‘room in the garden’ for a typical tenement building in Aberdeen. My room is an office and library for a working-at-home mum.

location Aberdeen, Scotland
area 50 m2
date 2010
client Scott Sutherland School of Architecture, 1st year BSc Architecture
design Kjersti Monsen

sectionsroof planplans plan - existing building elevations elevations layered - new and old atmospheric sketch

The young couple who are living in the existing house are expecting a child. He has a stable job as a petroleum engineer, while she is an author and works from home. They wish to have more space as they are expanding the family. As they cannot afford moving into a larger house they wish to build an additional room in their garden. This way of building is often called ‘under the radar’ as building regulations can be avoided.

This new room will accommodate for the clients writing, moving this space out of the house.  An advantage to this option is that it creates a division between work and home life. The new room will also act as a library as they are keen collectors of books. As this room will have two functions; a library and an office, it will be divided into two spaces. In the early stages of the project the library was on a mezzanine level, an idea taken from the Norwegian concept of having a ‘Hems’- a half floor that utilizes the commonly wasted space in the roof. This area commonly does not have a full room height, and therefore could not be used for this purpose. The final design has two floors, with full roof height. The roof slopes with 18’ mirroring the existing houses’ 20’ sloped roof. To access the mezzanine level, steps were put in. The idea of placing the stairs ‘outside’ came from Ståhls’ ‘Medium townhouse’. Other architects such as Holl and Studio Kap have also used this design for stairs. The exterior area underneath the stairs can be used for storing logs as it provides a sheltered entrance area.

The stairs create a diagonal line that twists around the building. This line is extended through the shape of the two windows. The smaller one faces east to catch the morning sun heating the building, while the larger one faces south letting daylight in. This creates a light, open space that will function as the office area on the second floor. The windows will look out of the property, rather than towards the building to further create a sense of separation.

The lower floor will not have any windows. However, a void in the centre of the building will let some diffused light into the library. A wood burning stove will be placed in this void to create a cosy atmosphere. The flue will extend through the void, linking the two spaces. In addition the bookcases will extend to the mezzanine level by following the stairs.

Only two materials will be used in the building. They are timber and slate. Slate for the roof (mirroring the existing house) and for the flooring on ground level. Timber will be used for cladding, the staircase and the bookshelves. The cladding will be vertical and angled, like the cladding on Vigsnæs’ ‘Triangle House’.

This Building will be located at the south end of the garden creating a greater separation between the working space and the home. Placing it here makes the staircase seem like it grows out of the wall.