Roofs Across Fields #4 – A Modern ‘Take’

As I said before (here), my opinion that the roof is more important than the wall in the rural landscape of Norfolk was based in no small part on hours spent gazing out of train windows on the Norwich to London main-line. Just south of Stowmarket, off to the east, is a prominent group of large pan-tiled roofs dotted with roof-lights, unmistakeably modern but nonetheless nestling happily into a cloak of semi-mature trees. Earlier this summer I finally got round to investigating, on my way down to see Clay Fields in Elmswell (which I will talk about later). It was well worth a detour…

At the end of a dead-end lane are four L-shaped groups of houses, each using the neighbouring group and a screen wall on the street to define a gravelled courtyard. The courtyards appear to have been built as separate phases over a number of years, and the screen wall in the first group is clearly quite old. The buildings are almost all roof. A generally rather low eave above the black weather-boarded ground floor swoops down at the entrances to below eye-level; I could imagine reaching out to pat the warm clay tiles in the summer. The position of the Velux windows reveals that the large steeply pitched roofs in some places contain two attic storeys. The southern-most courtyard, the earliest I guess, and most attractive, is a gravelled ‘shared-surface’ (a single undifferentiated zone used by pedestrians and cars) with a number of mature birch trees lending a somewhat ‘Scandic’ feel.

Whilst taking these photos I was accosted by a resident, a common event for an architectural tourist, and a good indication that a neighbourhood or development is well-liked and cared for. She was quite proud to tell me that the schemes had been designed by Needham-based Pat Bellay, from the mid-1980s onward.

Of course Crown Paddock also stands as an exemplar of my fourth rural archetype the ‘farmstead’: the buildings are dense, rectilinear and define a series of (very attractive) courtyards. More on contemporary ‘farmsteads’ here. More big roofs here.

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2 Responses to Roofs Across Fields #4 – A Modern ‘Take’

  1. Pat Bellay says:

    Flattered at your interest Matt, as I have already said to you, raking roofs/Velux roof windows with whole envelope used – very little or no ‘mere roof space’ being an ethos that I have tried to incorporate whenever I can has been a principle followed now for over 40 years in private practice [more especially since 1976 in my own practice]. Makes no sense to have almost a whole or half storey full of mere void [as was the so very prevalent until only very recently] that is not even designed to take any load for storage unless specifically reinforced. Bringing roofs down also creates a more human scale, with buildings growing up from the ground at or below our own height, as does dropping window head heights too – whereas 9 times out of ten you will see window heads all lining through with door head heights, variation [to suit position + usage] changes solid to void balance/ratios, + adds interest from outside as well as in. All quite simple variations picked up + utilised from looking at + working on modest traditional rural buildings. Incorporation of ‘garages’ within the overall format follows on from this too, whereas most housing layouts are dotted with large incongruous ‘dog kennel like’ boxes to house the family car. Combining garages to form more interesting shapes/enclosures/compositions [with added storage to sides or rear] properly related to/with or within the houses, is another device that I have tried to develop over the years. None of these basic things are expensive, just requires some thought at the outset + persistence to see that it gets built…….that ‘required’ persistence is quite another subject all on its own.

    In passing the 13 Needham Market houses are in 3 parts: ex builders yard ‘Sparrows Yard’ a terrace of 4, then ex lorry haulage business site split into 2: ‘Burls Yard’ a terrace of 4 + ‘Crown Paddock’ 5 detached houses.

  2. Matt Wood says:

    Nice to hear from you, Pat. I agree about the ‘human scale’ you’ve created with the low eaves…and I really like your point about observing and drawing inspiration from ‘modest and traditional’ rural buildings. Keep smiling!

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