Hello, I’m Funda Kemal, an architect and urban designer living and working in the beautiful city of Bath in Somerset. My passion is design for a healthy planet. I invite you to join me on a meander through three imaginative architectural projects. Each incorporate living in happy harmony with the natural environment as an integral part of their design concept. I hope they inspire you as much as they do me! https://www.linkedin.com/in/fundakemal/ Twitter:@turkishheather

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1. The Sun Rain Room by Tonkin Liu Architects, London. Photography by Tonkin Liu/Edmund Sumner

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Architects Anna Liu and Mike Tonkin refurbished and extended over two storeys into the rear courtyard of their home and studio, a Grade II listed Georgian Townhouse in London.

Their design transforms the overlooked courtyard garden into a serene private space designed to enjoy nature. An elegant plywood roof is curved to follow the arc of the sun. The roof is covered with planting, including trees, and is dotted with skylights that direct light into the spaces below. Concentric circles radiate out from the domed skylights and softly echo the ripples created by rain.

Rainwater is collected from the slate roof of the house and directed eccentrically to a channel at the edge of the curved extension roof where it is released through a spout into a long rainwater harvesting tank below. This water can then be released at the flick of a switch, to flood the black granite patio, so that it becomes a reflecting pool.

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A fully glazed set of steps allows natural light through from the ground level to the new basement level accommodation below and in turn is illuminated at night by light coming up from below. This joy, together with the glazed and mirrored walls within the courtyard itself, add to the magical ethereal quality of the space.

The roof is a major engineering feat, cantilevered asymmetrically from the edges whilst also undulating. The architects admit testing it by walking on it themselves!

There has been so much careful thought put into celebrating the elements as a completely immersive experience in the sun rain room. Light is invited in and played with, water is welcomed along with its reflective properties and sound, views are designed for connecting people with nature, plants salute the roof, white walls aid the distribution of light and the polished granite floor creates the centrepiece. All of these elements play spontaneously and harmoniously together in the back yard of this house, and as a result, Anna and Mike describe their creative efforts as:

“A good place to be on a bad day”.

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2. Courtyard House by Mark Wray Architects, Bath. Photographs by Mark & Louise Wray.

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Behind a small Grade II listed two bedroomed terraced house in Bath, Mark Wray and his wife Louise have gracefully created extra rooms with a difference.

It was no mean feat to deal with the listing, conservation area and world heritage site to boot, but with a simple timber frame construction, the Wrays successfully and modestly brought the sunshine, plants – and rain – into the main living spaces of this family home.

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From the original back room a long galley kitchen extends along the whole length of the back yard. This culminates in a dining area and all the rooms open up and connect to a central courtyard with giant glazed doors. A French drain neatly prevents water ingress over the level thresholds. A pale limestone wall diffuses light and forms a backdrop for fruit trees and plants. It radiates heat back out into the space, as do the dark paviours, that accentuate the rain and make the ground as delightfully watery and reflective as the surrounding glass walls.

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3. Maggie Centre Leeds by Heatherwick Studio, London. Photography Heatherwick/Hufton&Crow.

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Maggie’s is a charity that supports people affected by cancer. It has commissioned a number of buildings around the UK with the philosophy that great design can help people feel better.

The centre in Leeds is no exception. Set in the clinical hospital environment, the centre has created space for socialising, respite and support. The architecture is designed as a group of three large scaled planters, with a counselling room enclosed within each one. These are set around the ‘heart’ of the centre, which includes the kitchen, together with other social spaces.

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Building materials follow healthy building principles with lime plaster to maintain internal humidity, natural ventilation through strategically located openings and a structure of prefabricated and sustainably sourced timber.

Visitors are welcomed by having window sills and shelves assigned for them to fill with their own objects to create a sense of home and the roof top garden is drawn from English native species of plants, particularly the Yorkshire woodlands.

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Internal spaces are incredibly light and spacious, and plants are found in every purpose built nook possible. Large windows connect the inside spaces with the gardens outside and internal spaces flow into one another whilst maintaining privacy.

The effect is that visitors can feel at home, rather than as though they are in a typical medical facility. The environment is as integral to healing as the medical practices it hosts, which benefits staff as well as visitors.

Architect Thomas Heatherwick describes the design approach: ‘By using natural, sustainable materials and immersing the building in thousands of plants, there was a chance for us to make an extraordinary environment capable of inspiring visitors with hope and perseverance during their difficult health journeys.’

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All these designs incorporate the natural environment into the built environment with plants and nature taking a front seat in the creation of therapeutic and beautiful spaces both inside and out. Spaces have been created for plants by making the elements of buildings multifunctional – roofs have been greened, walls have had alcoves created for planters or left blank as the backdrop for trees. Plants are located right outside large windows to connect nature with life indoors. Dark surfaces are designed to get wet in the rain and reflect the surrounding greenery. Sunshine bounces around pale and shiny surfaces. Natural materials create healthy, non toxic environments. These techniques can be applied to all homes, whether it is adding greenery to a garage or shed roof, placing planters at garden boundaries and outside doors and windows, and using light and dark surfaces to make the most of the elements. Garden design specialists can advise on the best plant specification for your particular spot. Though much overlooked, this is arguably just as important as the specification for any other material in a new build, extension or home refresh because of the health and wellbeing benefits that direct daily contact with nature brings to us.

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