Green Bridge
Re-Imag­in­ing Rail­way Sta­tions : Con­nect­ing Communities

January 2021

Ideas — For small and medi­um stations

The sta­tion and sta­tion approach are com­bined in a green pedes­tri­an bridge that cross­es the rail­way line cre­at­ing a com­mu­ni­ty gar­den close to the town. The bridge will serve three func­tions: it will link the sta­tion to the towns’ cen­tre (many sta­tions in small towns are out­side of the cen­tre). It makes cross­ing the rail­way line safe for pedes­tri­ans and it allows wildlife and flow­ers to cross.

The railway station - as a green bridge
The Green Bridge

The sta­tion will be placed under­neath the bridge and the remain­ing space under­neath the bridge will be used as offices and com­mu­ni­ty ser­vices: just like the space under­neath the tra­di­tion­al rail­way arch­es has been the home to small busi­ness­es and start-ups and a place of urban regen­er­a­tion. The ends of both sides of the bridge will be used as bicy­cle stor­age. In the sta­tion hub there is space for ama­zon pick up points and cash machines togeth­er with the tick­et sell­ing machines.

The bridge can come in dif­fer­ent widths, depend­ing on the size of the town and can have stairs at one or both ends if there is no space for the full bridge at the spe­cif­ic station.

On top of the bridge we pro­pose a series of pavil­ions’. These can be designed as part of the sta­tion, but also by local artists and archi­tects to make the sta­tion recog­nis­able for trav­ellers. The pavil­ions can house com­mu­ni­ty cafés, food dis­tri­b­u­tion centres/​offices or con­sul­tan­cy rooms. 

The pro­pos­al uses the tra­di­tion­al func­tion of the rail­way arch­es as places of regen­er­a­tion while mak­ing them as a link between the sta­tion and the towns. The pro­posed struc­ture is a series of tim­ber arch­es that will sup­port a CLT slab. The CLT would be dimen­sioned in such a way that it will be easy to expand the bridge and add pavil­ions to it. Rain water will be col­lect­ed and reused to water the plants on the bridge which will also use hydro­pon­ic technology. 

The railway bridge - as a community space.
The rail­way bridge — as a com­mu­ni­ty space.

The Per­spex Dolls’ House
This Per­spex dolls’ house is an analy­sis of the tra­di­tion­al dolls’ house and breaks it up into components.

December 2020

Perspex doll's house façade

In the tra­di­tion­al dolls’ house objects are assem­bled in a room, or box. In the dolls’ house of Petronel­la Oort­man, still vis­i­ble in the Rijksmu­se­um in Ams­ter­dam over 700 objects were dis­played in nine box­es. All objects were made to scale. 

The inte­ri­or of the Per­spex dolls’ house can be com­pared to a the­atre. The con­tents of the house are reduced to a series of tableaux; Fur­ni­ture, Bath­rooms, Kitchens, wall­pa­per and con­fig­u­ra­tions of pro­to­typ­i­cal peo­ple are com­posed on strips and slide through the house and are made of Perspex.

A series of etched back­drops depict moods and ideas: move­ment, thoughts and poems. These drop down through slots in the top of the box. 

Per­son­al pho­tographs, which bring togeth­er space, actions and per­son­al mem­o­ries are engraved in tim­ber, per­haps a more liv­ing mate­r­i­al than Per­spex which stands, in this case, for the gener­ic and imper­son­al. The scale of the com­po­nents doesn’t cor­re­spond with the real scale of the events but of the mem­o­ry it takes up. So pho­tographs of impor­tant, or unim­por­tant events’ are burned on tim­ber cut outs.

A pic­ture of the façade is print­ed on paper and can be stuck to the front of the box to give the house an address. The façade has not been impor­tant for the inte­ri­or of the dolls house. The ear­ly Dutch dolls hous­es did­n’t have a façade. In dis­cus­sions on the home and the house, activ­i­ties and con­tent are always spo­ken of in terms of inte­ri­or, not the exterior.

The ter­raced house per­haps shows how many peo­ple move through a house over time. Many ter­raced hous­es are over 100 years old. In each house peo­ple come and go with or with­out chil­dren, fur­ni­ture and their own rules to occu­py the house. What makes the house a home is the com­bi­na­tion of the gener­ic, but vital ele­ments of the home so peo­ple can cre­ate their per­son­al mem­o­ries. These can take place any­where in the home, but the event in com­bi­na­tion with the place where it took place and what took place cre­ate for occu­pants the geog­ra­phy of the home.

Per­spex Dol­l’s House


December 2020

When build­ing a house, it seems nowa­days this cre­ates as many choic­es as there are in a super­mar­ket: you draw what you want and we can build it. The super­mar­ket has at least pre-pack­aged items. You want pota­to crisps? Nar­row it down to organ­ic, slight­ly salt­ed, healthy and a few brands remain.

With rain­pipes it is dif­fer­ent and there are a few routes:

Rein­vent­ing the rain­pipe. How does the water real­ly flow and would chang­ing the flow of the water shape the rain­pipe (Assum­ing that water has­n’t changed much over the last mil­len­nia, is this per­haps a slight­ly arro­gant route: who am I to change the course of water.)

Look at dif­fer­ent solu­tions glob­al­ly: in Japan­ese tem­ples the water comes down a chain. This was also used by the archi­tect Aldo van Eijck, but would result in cul­tur­al appro­pri­a­tion these days. As the new house is in a coastal area, with a lot of wind this solu­tion may not be so good as the wind will blow the water off the chain.

Chain drain­pipes, house in Suffolk

Look around. This is what I have done. Near Mor­den, an indus­tri­al build­ing, huge brick­wall with square rain­pipes com­ing down. In our vic­to­ri­an ter­raced street: rain pipes com­ing down in many mate­ri­als, straight from a gut­ter, no hop­pers. Many ser­vices to Vic­to­ri­an hous­es were applied after the hous­es were built, so the facades are often dec­o­rat­ed with all kinds of pipes and wires which once rep­re­sent­ed progress.

Exam­ine what the build­ing needs: it is not an iso­lat­ed prob­lem and should make sense with the rest of the façade.

The Invis­i­ble Building

November 2020

What if we couldn’t see the build­ing on a site? This could be the task of archi­tects in the coun­try. Let’s make them invis­i­ble through dress­ing them in cloaks of green­ery. Like the mir­ror hous­es in Swe­den, where the green is reflect­ed every­where and seem invis­i­ble and yet are very obvi­ous­ly made of glass when they reflect the sun, or when the birds fly into them (observed by Jen­nifer Frewen). The house should be the tree perhaps.


The trees should take pref­er­ence with the land­scape, and birds and their nests, since we are tread­ing on their ter­ri­to­ry, rather than the oth­er way around. Why do we allow nature to be draped around the house as anoth­er com­mod­i­ty, just enough to bal­ance it with the square footage of the house itself.

Bur­wood, start­ing to merge with the landscape

The writer/​Architect Adolf Loos wrote: but the archi­tects have the wall.’ In a rant against design­ers and dec­o­ra­tors who obscured the wall with large fur­ni­ture items and dec­o­ra­tions. But now archi­tects have trees? Have archi­tects been afraid too long to rant and take sides and be moral­is­tic, rather than go with the flow? Has inno­va­tion and dar­ing tak­en over every­thing else?

I first wrote about hous­es and their place in the land­scape in 2015 and we are all mov­ing on: cli­mate cri­sis has prompt­ed an inter­est in sus­tain­able build­ing and solar pan­els and ground source heat pumps and oth­er alter­na­tives to fuel. How­ev­er, clients are still told to max­imise the m2 of the site. Scale, or lack of it is also an envi­ron­men­tal issue.

We need more aware­ness of the impact a build­ing has on its envi­ron­ment visu­al­ly dur­ing the day as well as at night. Before plan­ning per­mis­sion we encour­age clients to check the sight lines around their future home and con­sid­er the impact of it on the sur­round­ing land­scape. How much space is left around the build­ing for trees and nature? If not much one can reduce the space of the house per­haps: Could peo­ple sleep in small guest rooms? Could gue­strooms dou­ble as a study: does one need to have a large toi­let? Or is it more inter­est­ing to have a few large spaces that look larg­er because the sur­round­ing bed­rooms and loos are small­er. In the Alham­bra in Grena­da the Large Patios are con­nect­ed with small pas­sages: the con­trast makes the patios seem larger. 

The ear­ly mod­ern hous­es of Le Cor­busier, and E1027 by Eileen Gray and the Rietveld Schroed­er house were mod­est in scale. They explored a dif­fer­ent use of space: they dou­bling up func­tions, and used small­er fur­ni­ture in order to make the hous­es seem larg­er than they were. Eileen Grey used fold­able fur­ni­ture that could change in func­tion. Win­dows were used as an expan­sion of the inte­ri­or as well as to blur dis­tinc­tions between inte­ri­or and exte­ri­or. The Son­n­eveld House, for the direc­tor of the Van Nelle Fac­to­ry, built in 1933 by the firm Brinkman and van der Vlugt had all fur­ni­ture made: the fur­ni­ture is small and flex­i­ble and the house feels there­fore larg­er than it is. 



Tra­di­tion­al arts and crafts and cot­tages were also orig­i­nal­ly small and are blown up out of pro­por­tion to com­bine mod­ern wish­es; large pri­vate bath­rooms and kitchen islands, with the required arts and crafts look. The two don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly go togeth­er. Cot­tages are small by nature. Low thatched roofs look just right in a land­scape and don’t com­pete with the sur­round­ing trees. Scaled up, how­ev­er, they will always look wrong: too high, and odd­ly pro­por­tioned. [ Large coun­try hous­es were designed with the land­scap­ing around them and there were only a few. tra­di­tion­al­ly have enough land around them to bal­ance archi­tec­ture and nature.]

Tra­di­tion­al Cor­nish Cot­tage – new build, liv­ing in har­mo­ny with the sur­round­ings and with tra­di­tion­al materials. 


The last impact on the envi­ron­ment is light: make sure the win­dows have cur­tains at night. Dark­ness is nur­tur­ing for nature. Glow worms, bats and owls all thrive in the dark. 

After the cur­rent pan­dem­ic, where we had a glimpse of nature we hadn’t enjoyed in almost fifty years, peo­ple want to move to the coun­try­side. Please if you move to the coun­try try to not take too much of the city with you and look at the ele­ments of the coun­try you want to pre­serve and embrace before you com­mence building.

Com­pe­ti­tions: Past & Present

October 2020


In a Rome desert­ed by tourists I had the chance to sit on a small emp­ty bench on the Piaz­za Navona right next to the ’ Fontana dei Quat­tro Fiu­mi (Foun­tain of the Four Rivers) — usu­al­ly hid­den from view by oth­er tourists — which was designed and exe­cut­ed by the sculp­tor Cav­a­liere Berni­ni in 1651

Rome was emp­ty and we had all the time in the world to look at every detail carved in mar­ble: toes, hors­es, robes, fish, emblems and hair on the famous baroque foun­tain. Our smart phone with Wike­pe­dia was our guide.[i]

The foun­tains were designed for Pope Inno­cent X, whose palace over­looked the piaz­za. The foun­tain also was the result of a design com­pe­ti­tion for archi­tects and artists for which Berni­ni was ini­tial­ly not invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate. It was sug­gest­ed the sculp­tor had ene­mies because of his pop­u­lar­i­ty and suc­cess. After all the Borgh­ese fam­i­ly were his patron. Fil­ippe Bal­dunic­ci, Bernini’s biog­ra­ph­er writes in 1823:

[..] the Pope had designs made by the lead­ing archi­tects of Rome with­out an order for one to Berni­ni. Prince Nic­colò Ludovisi, whose wife was niece to the pope, per­suad­ed Berni­ni to pre­pare a mod­el, and arrange for it to be secret­ly installed in a room in the Palaz­zo Pam­phili that the Pope had to pass. When the meal was fin­ished, see­ing such a noble cre­ation, he stopped almost in ecsta­sy. Being prince of the keen­est judg­ment and the lofti­est ideas, after admir­ing it, said: This is a trick … It will be nec­es­sary to employ Berni­ni in spite of those who do not wish it, for he who desires not to use Bernini’s designs, must take care not to see them.”[1][ii]

The reac­tion of the pope to Bernini’s mod­el is one we all hope to illic­it from jury mem­bers when we sub­mit a com­pe­ti­tion. For them to stop in ecsta­sy and to only suc­ceed in deny­ing its beau­ty by not see­ing it. 

When I searched more I found Archi­tec­tur­al com­pe­ti­tions have a long his­to­ry. The first com­pe­ti­tion being held in 448 BC for the design of the Parthenon.[iii]

Oth­er build­ings that were the result of archi­tec­tur­al com­pe­ti­tions: the White house by James Hold­en, in 1792 cho­sen from 9 entries and the hous­es of par­lia­ment, in 1835 by Charles Bar­ry cho­sen from 98 entries.

Jaques Caban­ieu from the MIQCP [iv] , France’s body for qual­i­ty of con­struc­tion, writes that com­pe­ti­tions in France serve two pur­pos­es: the client gets to choose a design rather than an archi­tect, so is not being forced into some­thing by the archi­tect and it breaks the grip of what he calls the star prac­tices’ of the pro­fes­sion by open­ing up the oppor­tu­ni­ty to bid to a wider range of prac­tices. It also gives a prac­tice and its staff a chance to think dif­fer­ent­ly about a project and push bound­aries. The com­pe­ti­tion sets the lev­el of the build­ing that is aspired by both the archi­tect and client which makes devel­op­ing the pro­pos­al into some­thing tan­gi­ble eas­i­er. At the same time Caban­ieu acknowl­edges that com­pe­ti­tions are a waste of cre­ative ener­gy and pleads that archi­tects should be reim­bursed for their work. 

Not clients in all coun­tries are equal­ly seri­ous about real­is­ing the com­pe­ti­tion result which means that the com­pe­ti­tion process and after­math can be cost­ly and waste­ful for archi­tects. Espe­cial­ly if more than 200 prac­tices enter com­pe­ti­tions and the process of choos­ing itself becomes a lot­tery. The Archi­tects Jour­nal held in May 2018 a pan­el dis­cus­sion on the mer­its of com­pe­ti­tions in What’s wrong with archi­tec­tur­al com­pe­ti­tions’. The points Caban­ieu makes are acknowl­edges but the over­all crit­i­cism is that more and more of open ideas com­pe­ti­tions are a cheap way for clients to get many ideas and a lot of pub­lic­i­ty.[v] Doing com­pe­ti­tions is expen­sive and labour inten­sive for prac­tices. As the foun­tain sto­ry showed, the pre­sen­ta­tion has to stir the jury mem­bers even after they see 250 oth­er presentations. 


Dur­ing COVID my prac­tice par­tic­i­pat­ed in many ten­ders and com­pe­ti­tions and for sev­er­al rea­sons: First of all there has been lit­tle work dur­ing COVID19 for a recent­ly estab­lished prac­tice with­out a clear iden­ti­ty such as mine. It is dif­fi­cult to meet new clients over zoom and dur­ing lock­down: Clients who do have work will prob­a­bly go with the prac­tices they know as zoom is not the eas­i­est plat­form to meet peo­ple for the first time. 

The sec­ond rea­son is that dur­ing the ear­ly days of the lock­down, every­one was spec­u­lat­ing on the future: the econ­o­my, com­mu­ni­ties, the work­place and the rela­tion between the three. Doing com­pe­ti­tions was a good way to devel­op ideas about the future and giv­ing us the feel­ing we were equip­ping our­selves for a future yet unknown. Look at the amount of play­ful social dis­tance pro­pos­als that have been made and ways of shield­ing and wear­ing masks. This has now turned into jobs for prac­tices who can turn offices into safe spaces. A third rea­son, which builds on the sec­ond one: com­pe­ti­tions, whether won or lost, pro­vide a way of build­ing up a port­fo­lio and cre­ate a sense of direc­tion for the practice. 


Com­pe­ti­tions were all sub­mit­ted elec­tron­i­cal­ly, times have changed since Berni­ni, and while mak­ing last­minute draw­ings for the think 2025 com­pe­ti­tion I missed the dead­line by 1 minute. 

The idea for think 2025 (the idea of a new future was in the names of many com­pe­ti­tions), a think­ing shed’, con­tin­ued on the sub­mis­sion for anoth­er com­pe­ti­tion, Homes 2030, which we par­tic­i­pat­ing in. Despite being crit­i­cal of its pur­pose: the solu­tion to the hous­ing short­age isn’t one pre­fab method that can be repli­cat­ed for­ev­er. We there­for pro­posed a hybrid con­struc­tion method in order for archi­tects and com­mu­ni­ties to be able to adapt a con­struc­tion sys­tem to a spe­cif­ic site, in a rel­a­tive­ly short time, where small amounts of hous­es at the time can be built, involv­ing com­mu­ni­ties and cre­at­ing jobs. 

The fac­to­ries in which the hous­es would be con­struct­ed would also dou­ble up as Car­bon Free and Low Ener­gy infor­ma­tion cen­tres’, pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion and guid­ance on the lat­est cli­mate research, to invite peo­ple to con­tribute to the debates and to teach peo­ple in how to live car­bon neu­tral and how to achieve it in their homes and gar­dens In the 1960s good liv­ing’ exhi­bi­tions were held all over Europe (some coun­tries gave even class­es) to show peo­ple how to live in apart­ments and how to use mod­ern bed­rooms, bath­rooms and furniture. 

Energy Sheds
Ener­gy sheds

[i] <https://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​o​n​t​a​n​a​_​d​e​i​_​Q​u​a​t​t​r​o​_​Fiumi>

[ii] Fil­ip­po Bald­in­uc­cis The life of Cav­a­liere Berni­ni (1682):





[iv] Mis­sion inter­min­istérielle pour la qual­ité des con­struc­tions publiques. – _Comp_217.pdf

[v] See also AJ 10/03/2020 Maria Smith: Boy­cott this phoney home of 2030 competition.

Return­ing to Work

March 2020

After spend­ing years and years on my own, writ­ing a PhD and look­ing after chil­dren, house, dog and cats, I am work­ing in a team again. It is fan­tas­tic but it does bruise my pri­vate bub­ble almost hourly.

First of all, the idea that you have to know every­thing is super­seded. Let alone that you do know any­thing. Hav­ing been out of prac­tice for almost 15 years (apart from small con­ver­sions and bath­rooms and the like), I notice that prac­tice has evolved. There are many more con­sul­tants and the archi­tect is much kinder to the client. When I worked in prac­tice (it may have been the offices I worked in), we would nev­er use ref­er­ence images: that would mean that we were sug­gest­ing some­thing that exist­ed already. Now we use them all the time. This is much kinder to the client, who is not asked to take a leap of faith, but who is prop­er­ly informed about what they can expect.

These may be issues that exist­ed in prac­tice before. There are two things that make it hard to return: first of all, to under­stand there has been a cul­tur­al shift form with work col­leagues. Sec­ond it is hard to gauge what has changed and what has stayed the same. For exam­ple talks about struc­ture and build­ing process­es have not changed as much as I thought. Where­as the admin side for organ­is­ing files, draw­ings and their links have changed con­sid­er­ably. I find myself over­con­fi­dent and capa­ble one moment, to be utter­ly despair­ing the next. 

I dis­cussed this with a friend, a for­mer edi­tor at a well-known glossy mag­a­zine. She said she would nev­er want to get back into her old work envi­ron­ment: every­one will be so much more on the ball, so much quick­er. Solu­tions you would not think about for a minute now cost hours. She set up on her own. Tak­ing her time. 

Mus­ings on a Kitchen Island
Through the Plug-hole

January 2016

The kitchen island rep­re­sents on the one hand a great love for cook­ing, gath­er­ing and eat­ing. In the pri­vate envi­ron­ment its per­fec­tion lends some cachet to the home and there­fore its own­ers, per­haps, a sense of con­trol. How­ev­er, on the oth­er hand the pris­tine clean­li­ness of the island rais­es ques­tions about its main­te­nance and the space it occupies.

It takes a good amount of clean­ing and tidy­ing up to keep up appear­ances. The big­ger the island, the more there is to become dirty, but also the more space it occu­pies; as much as a medi­um to large sized room. Where­as this amount of stor­age space makes it eas­i­er to keep the mod­ern inte­ri­or clean and clut­ter-less, the island itself becomes pop­u­lat­ed with the clut­ter that is now out of sight. Does the island become a Pandora’s Box con­tain­ing harm­ful clut­ter and unwant­ed imper­fec­tions? Or can it be used in a more con­struc­tive manner?

The Kitchen Island and its pres­ence in the mid­dle of a room is per­haps to the 21st cen­tu­ry what the four poster bed must have been to the 17th cen­tu­ry. Both define through their pres­ence the sur­round­ing space in the room and both rep­re­sent a mix­ture of sta­tus, a need to dis­play and a prac­ti­cal use. The largest dif­fer­ence between the two is that the kitchen island is used for its exte­ri­or and the four poster bed was used for its interior. 

The writer Wal­ter Ben­jamin crit­i­cized the bour­geois indi­vid­ual in Berlin and Paris, at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry. This bour­geois indi­vid­ual could only relax and be con­tent, be him­self, in his own inte­ri­or among his beloved objects in which he saw him-self reflected.

Cush­ioned by his objects, and there­fore pro­tect­ed from the real world out­side his room he was, ef- fec­tive­ly, shut­ting it out. The inte­ri­or and all its nos­tal­gic objects were seen, by Ben­jamin, to keep the bour­geois indi­vid­ual cap­tive among his pos­ses­sions, pre­vent­ing him from engag­ing with the real world and its peo­ple with its prob­lems and chal­lenges. The 21st cen­tu­ry bour­geois indi­vid­ual, now per­haps part of the mid­dle class­es, inhab­its a pris­tine and clut­ter-less inte­ri­or that reflects the per­fec­tion of the life of its own­ers. Again the indi­vid­ual escapes from an engage­ment with the real world and the prob­lems fac­ing the earth and soci­ety ‑even though these enter his world on a con­tin­u­ous basis through hand­held de- vices- hid­ing all clut­ter and waste inside a kitchen island. In fact, the kitchen island grows at the expense of the world out­side it and becomes a sym­bol of out­wards per­fec­tion only.

The Work­place and Home Merge

March 2015

It was always thought that peo­ple would pre­fer to work from home. How­ev­er, it seems that the work­place is increas­ing­ly becom­ing more like a home with the col­leagues as family. 

Busi­ness trips which can be days or weeks at a time, with col­leagues, often includ­ing bond­ing activ­i­ties. Com­pa­nies such as Google, Face­book and Inno­cent Smooth­ies, cre­ate a home-like relaxed lay­out, try­ing their best to dis­tance them­selves from a tra­di­tion­al work­place envi­ron­ment. In large com­pa­nies the work­place pro­vides pilates, dry clean­ing, mas­sage, GP ser­vices, for­mer­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the home. Many have show­ers and cafes, includ­ing the abil­i­ty to make your own meals. 

Hotel chains, this has been not­ed a long time ago, cre­ate an inte­ri­or that is famil­iar, so again peo­ple feel at home away from home. As peo­ple, how­ev­er, are always away from home, what will in the end con­sti­tute the home. The home becomes a series of notions and ideas, smells per­haps, and rou­tines, many estab­lished in child­hood, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly a phys­i­cal space in which one spends one’s best moments. 

One can, of course also be away from home at home. Work at home, bring the laun­dry away, use the home as an office and have meet­ings at home. Basi­cal­ly, we can con­clude that home and work have merged? 

So why are their no spaces for the home­less­ness at night? Can’t the home­ly work­places con­tribute beds at night?