George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces: The Hivehaus

WORDS George Clark and Jane Field-Lewis PHOTOS Richard Maxted


When Barry Jackson bought his current home, his plan, as always, was to renovate and develop it, but this one was different as it had a small plot of land, and this opened up new possibilities.

His first building project was the outbuildings, some disused crumbling stables. He took a sledgehammer to them, knocking them down, and built a wooden chalet in their place. He began thinking seriously about small-scale design and about halfway through the project he had his eureka moment – the idea for a smallspace living capsule rather than just a smallspace garden studio. The physical area available to him opened his mind and provided just the creative opportunity he needed. It had been a long time coming.

THE GEOMETRY OF THE IDEA

In brief, Barry’s concept was a modular design. Each module was the size of a small room; and while he discovered lots of people who were making modular buildings using squares, he thought a hexagon was a more suitable shape to grow from and add on to. In essence, by cutting off the corners of a square, the space feels larger and less hemmed in. It’s also an easier shape to furnish as there’s less pressure to put the furniture into corners, making the whole space usable, more open and fluid.

Each hexagonal pod is made up of six equilateral triangles joined together with their points meeting in the centre. Barry cut out some cardboard hexagons, half-hexagons, diamond shapes and single triangles. Through his modelling he discovered that when adding additional pods, all these shapes fitted together perfectly, so he wasn’t restricted to adding only complete hexagons. This created the potential for a greater selection of additional pods – and therefore more flexible room sizes.

STRIVING FOR ELEGANT SIMPLICITY

Working on the development of the conjoined hexagonal pod shapes, Barry applied the Bauhaus principle not only as inspiration for the name of the project but also, and more meaningfully, in his construction approach. Form must follow function, and the build was design-led by practicalities. The key decision was when Barry hit upon the framework, which bolts together with vertical poles at each corner of the hexagon – and these poles became the conduits for the drainage. The big open walls came next – along with the question of how to let in maximum light in the easiest way. Each wall is divided into three equal sections. The window section can be one-third, or two-thirds, and there are two sizes of windows available. Similarly, the wall sections were available in two sizes and you could choose whichever combination of wall and glass you liked.

The construction of, say, a timber-framed house, has varying layers of structure, insulation, battens, cladding, plaster boarding and waterproofing. However, Barry wanted something much simpler that was internally and externally finished in one go.

INTERNAL FINISH

Barry has coined the term “future retro” for his own brand of a modern look inspired by key retro shapes, materials and furniture, along with the space-inspired TV shows of the 1970s. He describes it as “the feel of looking back at the future”. For instance, the dining table in the kitchen was inspired by the shapes used in the stylised “Futuro” spaceship-looking homes of the 1960s. Similarly, the colour palette throughout and the wood finish in the kitchen echo the upholstery fabric and wood structure of the vintage Ercol sofa in the sitting room.

This is an excerpt from George Clarke’s More Amazing Spaces by George Clarke and Jane Field-Lewis (published by Quadrille Publishing, distributed by Pan Macmillan South Africa). Catch season 2 of George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on BBC Lifestyle (DStv channel 174). For more information about the show, visit channel4.com. The book is available at all leading bookstores.