Bath, England Part 2! – A Georgian Townhouse and Society Hall

by jlevetjr

Proposed Townhouse Facade

Proposed Townhouse Facade

The previous post was regarding a proposed redevelopment in the World Heritage Site of the city of Bath, England.  Involved with that project was the design of two buildings, a row of adaptable townhouses and a Bath Society Hall and Conference Center.  Excitingly, my design for the Society Hall was chosen by our jurors to represent the design team by being included in the master plan and presented to the Bath Council!

I found the first project, the row of townhouses, particularly interesting, as it was my first residential design project while at Notre Dame.  The homes were to be three-and-a-half story single-family homes, the common fabric building found throughout the historic city.  What made the project challenging was that the homes had to allow for future adaptation into flats or offices on individual floors, and two plan configurations had to be developed: one for the single-family residence and one for the series of flats. In my personal research, I found that a lack of accessibility is also a major problem in the historic part of the city and is causing an aging population to seek residence elsewhere.  Noticing this, I also wanted my townhouses to be innately “visitable” by a person with a disability and also easily converted to become fully accessible if needed.

The townhouses found throughout Bath are often only two rooms deep to allow for light and ventilation and rely on a central perpendicular structural wall.  This makes it extremely difficult to reconfigure the various floors into separate flats when needed, a quickly realized design problem for this project!  The need of getting light and air deep into the interior rooms while retaining the character of the homes was a big challenge.  This need is especially important when considering converting the homes to flats.  My solution was creating an L-shaped floor plan that reversed itself with each townhouse.  This allowed for a small courtyard and enough open space to have privacy between the adjacent homes.  This also allowed for the general composition of the floor plan to remain similar to its historic models as well as maintain other characteristics such as the firewalls, rear gardens, and seamless front facades.

While I thought the first project was difficult to resolve in plan, the second design contained challenges all over the place!  The Bath Society Hall and Conference Center held two unique and separate programs in one building.   The building’s footprint was pre-determined and quite irregular.  And to make it even more difficult, there were three main entrances, three main level changes, and SIX highly-visible facades! ….all of this was to be carried out in the highly regular and strict Georgian language.  Needless to say, this was a study of organizing a building’s plan, spatial hierarchies, the architectural ‘promenade,’ centering and re-centering, etc.

After much trial and error, my final solution finally separated the two programs while maintaining the footprint that was allocated for the building.  After the review, the panel of jurors, which included architect Michael Dennis, voted to have my design represent the class in our master plan for the area when presented to the Bath Council on our trip to England.

For more information on the project and for pictures from the design team’s presentation in Bath, see my last post!