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When we need complexity

I stayed with a friend in Somerset at the weekend, in a marvellous house that had been sneaked into a narrow gap between two others a long time ago and had grown backwards and upwards on its long site.

She had just done some serious work to sort out the fact that much of it was seemingly underground and rather damp. But there were still staircases going off in odd directions.

The whole thing was reminiscent of one of Escher’s drawings (such as ‘relativity’ shown here). As my friend said, many of the alterations resulted from a desperate attempt to draw light in, much of which had to be done by rooflights.

The complexity of the building was a reflection of its history and of the accretions. Often what we want in a building is a legible plan and a clear section. But, aided by history, this house had a section that was almost incomprehensible – and was all the better for it.

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