Modern houses with asymmetrical roof and tile cladding walls
© Robert Barker, Stolon Studio

Case Study

Kaolin Court

Kaolin Court, designed for a small ethical developer, creates nine new homes set around a shared outdoor amenity.

The project expands on the earlier Forest Mews scheme, demonstrating the scalability of the principles of sociable architecture: developments which prioritise the social aspects of new builds to create opportunities for new communities to grow and thrive.

Key to its success is the provision of quality shared space that encourages interaction. Private and public thresholds are carefully mediated, allowing residents to engage in as much communal activity as they want, but also allowing for retreat. Non-lineated space provides a sense of belonging and community, with planting and ponds rather than fences used to delineate space and gently create defensible areas in front of windows. There is a delicacy of light and landscape but homes are hard-wearing, low maintenance and affordable to run.

Roof-forms were created using solar modelling, and allow sunlight into the shared courtyard and ground floors.  A timber frame with vaulted ceilings and ground floor thermal mass creates warmth in the winter and cool in the summer.  A high-performance building envelope includes low u-values, triple glazing, and low air-permeability.  The courtyard itself features sensitive landscaping with planting and ponds to enhance well-being, biodiversity and opportunities for creative play.

The courtyard provides a tranquil shared haven from gritty urban life.  It encourages interaction amongst residents, promoting well-being and a deeper idea of community. The sculptural angular forms of the buildings allow sunlight into the courtyard all year, glistening off the shallow reflecting pools and glowing off the warm clay tiles that adorn the roof and walls.

At the heart of the project is the Sociable Space – the shared courtyard.  The quality of the outside space and the relationship of this space to the new buildings was paramount to the concept.

The landscape design involved the selection of high impact, low maintenance planting.  It leads from the street, provides a street front set-back, the pedestrian route through the fissure in the building and opens out into the communal courtyard garden.

Raised planters, grassed areas, angular beds and brick-edged reflection pools are set within the brick paving to create an informal garden.  The designers were very thoughtful with providing every resident a direct connection with nature.

The shared garden is a place to relax, socialize, and play. Each house has its own courtyard which opens onto the central garden.  The interchange between public and private space has been planned meticulously - from the most public street-front through to the most private spaces in the homes.  Embracing the concept of sociable housing, the line between the private and shared space is delineated by a change in the coursing of the brick pavers – creating separation, without putting up fences.  The large picture windows onto the kitchen/dining space are separated from the shared courtyard by a brick edged reflecting pool.  This provides a privacy ‘buffer’ for the window, a source of water for wildlife, a playful feature for children, and a reflective surface which projects rippled light into the interior room.  It holds rainwater, via rain chains, part of the overall SuDs system. 

The brick was chosen as it provided a robust yet familiar material, could be designed in a way to delineate spaces, and form edging to the pools.  The blue colour was chosen to compliment the planting, the river slates in the ponds, the interior floor tiles and the striking terracotta tiles which clad the buildings. 

During lockdown, this communal garden became the focal point of the development, providing respite, refuge, play and entertainment.  The children who live here use it as a racetrack for their bikes, a stage for their theatre productions, and a surface for their chalk-drawn illustrations and games – it is like a big blackboard!  As such, it has been an excellent choice for an external area.

Together with the design, landscaping, ‘neighbouryard’, and reflection pools, the development has a clear drive to enhance the well-being and sociability of the residents.

Courtyard of the Kaolin Court project showing the red sandtoft tile cladding
© Robert Barker, Stolon Studio

"Even on a dull day,

the warmth and light reflected off the Sandtoft tiles brighten the interiors and warms the interior spaces."

Due to the sculptural roof forms, the architectural desire was to create a homogenous covering – using a material that suited both roof and wall. Sandtoft, due to it being an interlinking tile, works both on a variety of roof pitches and can be vertically hung, fulfilling the architectural vision. Furthermore, the texture and variety of the tile finish provided the visual geniality the architects were looking for. The results are spectacular. The tiles express the sculptural form, the material reflects and alters the quality of light within the sociable space, and helps to create this ‘other world’ character of the place. Even on a dull day, the warmth and light reflected off the tiles brighten the interiors and warms the interior spaces. 

The Sandtoft tiles were fixed to the building envelope with a system of battens and counter-battens. Due to the interlocking nature of the tiles, it was necessary to set out the arrangement such that the tiles were always laid from right to left. In addition to this, the installation was made more complicated by the geometry of the building. Despite this complexity, the system proved versatile. Where the tiles meet the edges of the angled façade and roof junctions, bespoke fixings were required. By working closely with the fabricator, Guttercrest, the architects were able to develop bespoke trims to waterproof and cover these connection details. The cover flashings and trims were a key part of the design which served to compliment the tiling. Special vent covers and proprietary ventilation tiles were produced and incorporated into the facade seamlessly. On the unconventional roof face, an angled batten grid was implemented to great effect. The tiles were easily installed and functional when laid out on a rotated grid which was neither horizontal or vertical. 

Project Summary

  • Client: House of Tuesday
  • Architect: Stolon Studio
  • Contractor: Meridian Construction
  • Photography: Robert Barker

Products Used

A modern residential building with vertical tile cladding in 2020 Flanders tile

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