Hattie Thorpe

Paul Archer Design
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Paul Hardman

We can instinctually sense when a house has ‘good bones’. Somehow, we can feel it – in the materials, the proportions and, as time passes, in the patina of a house as it ages.

The structure of a house can also elevate a home into somewhere inspiring, a quality that PAD excels at with modern flourish. Here, Paul Hardman, founder and direc- tor of Hardman Structural Engineers, who has been collaborating with PAD for over 10 years, shines some light on how to build those ‘good bones’.

Boscombe House, 2018
Power House, 2012

What makes a PAD-designed home special?

Every project is adventurous, daring and brave. Wide, tall openings build connections between indoors and out, and it’s interesting to see the effect that has on people in space. I think PAD really understands what people need. At Power House in Highbury, the lower level has a wide opening that makes you feel immersed in the garden. When you step inside, the proportions, the exposed structure, it all feels right, and you realise why the architects didn’t allow their design to be compromised – even when we came up against challenges. That’s why we always start a project together by listening – from a design point of view, I think it’s important to understand what the architects are trying to achieve to fully embrace the challenges.

How do structural material choices affect how people feel in space?

Materials fall into place quite naturally. The faceted roof of the Boscombe House extension was originally steel, yet because of the scale, we decided on timber, which meant it could be built by a carpenter. The segmented structure is integrated into the living space and it’s just very homely. At Aperture House a masonry screen protects the living areas from the pavement and street; in contrast to the material, the scale and feel is subtle. When PAD designs a very large opening, that’s probably going to be steelwork. Materials derive from their function in the building, but they do affect the experience of space.

Christchurch Hill, 2021
Aperture House, 2019

How do the good design decisions you make affect inhabitants on a daily basis?

Designing in durability and accessibility for maintenance makes people’s lives much easier on a daily basis and in the long run. Part of our job is specifying low-maintenance materials that aren’t going to need replacing in three to four years. We also think carefully about providing access for cleaning and future maintenance. We could design a terrace to carry the weight of a plant pot, but instead we design it for the weight of a scaffold, in case access to a higher part of the building is required. If we design a glass roof, we think about how scaffolding could be placed on either side of it. Especially in a dense city such as London, we deliberately over-design to anticipate these issues.

We always start a project together by listening – from a design point of view, I think it’s important to understand what the architects are trying to achieve to fully embrace the challenges.
Ayhoe House, 2018
Ayhoe House, 2018
Guildford Lodge, 2017

Which invisible structural engineering details contribute to how we feel in a space?

It’s common for a PAD design to have surfaces that appear unsupported, which creates a spacious feel. At Richmond Road, we cantilevered the roof three metres into the garden, and it appears to be floating. At Guildford Lodge, we designed a semi-circular extension with a big void beneath it. We only had a few support points, but they weren’t obvious, so the structure is hidden and walking underneath it creates an expansive feeling.

Spaces for Living