Carl Turner

Slat House

Most buildings are still made from a few basic materials such as concrete, brick, timber, glass and stone – with smaller buildings still reliant on the skills of craftspeople and tradespeople. I come from a background of ‘making’ myself and have been lucky to work with some amazing problem-solvers. Unlike many practices who have become isolated from direct experience of construction, we have set out to sustain and strengthen the link between thinking and making.

We built our early projects ourselves for a number of reasons. Budgets dictated that we had to do so if we were to turn a profit, and we found it hard to find good small builders, but most of all, it was a great way to experiment and learn.

Our first foray into the world of casting came with Slat House Our clients wanted a very hardwearing interior, so (perhaps rather naively) we set about casting the concrete ourselves on site, including wall surfaces and kitchen worktops. By the time we got to Frame House , we realised that it was best left to experts – although they still needed a lot of hand-holding and instruction along the way to achieve the project’s meticulous shuttering. Throughout construction, we carried on testing and experimenting ourselves to get the desired results.

For Slip House, we wanted to incorporate concrete elements as a thermal store and to give the building a sense of solidity but were initially hesitant due to the cost and slow site processes. Once a steel frame was required for structural reasons however, the possibility of pre-cast concrete components emerged. Here we have been able to use a very flat, hybrid system to create beautifully finished ceiling panels. Experience on site gave us an understanding of the physicality of elements like joint positions and junctions, allowing us to think if the building as a set of components and giving us the confidence to work with materials in the way we did. It saved us time too: whereas Frame House took months to build, the ceilings at Slip House were delivered and build within two days.

We have taken our approach further through group collaboration, and recently groups like Assemble have discovered for themselves the joy of thinking and making, That’s great to see.