An erasure poem created from an architects' flyer: around the pear tree snug in the centre history / brings light inward wooded views echo / walls give a soft abstracted reflection / chandeliers hang in space / the house creates rain / harvesting air / reducing / loss

(erasure poem created from architects’ flyer for Pear Tree House – highlight text to view below)

The site for this house in Dulwich had never been developed, and contained many trees that had grown wild. The trees inform every part of the design, from the placement and orientation of the house to the vertical expression of the detailing, designed so that the house reads as vertical elements to blend in to the trees.

The site is long and thin, and the layout is arranged around the changing light of the day, with the kitchen looking to the north east for morning light, the living areas looking south west onto the pear tree courtyard for light from midday, and the lowered snug in the centre of the building as a cosy retreat in the evening.
The concept for this backland house, completed in Summer 2015, began with a 100 year old pear tree, a remnant of the site’s history as a Victorian fruit orchard. The house has been built around this tree, creating an internal courtyard that brings light and to the centre of the plan, while turning the house inward to remain private from the surrounding terraced houses.

The building rests on pile foundations to prevent damage to the trees and has a structural diagram of concrete external walls to the ground floor, where the walls meet the ground and are exposed to the weathering of nature and occupants, to provide a robust finish. The first floor is constructed as a single storey, lightweight, timer framed box spanning these walls, with two central concrete staircores to provide lateral stability and create dramatic, naturally lit spaces from the rooflights above.

We wanted to preserve the character of the site and evoke its history through the building, which has been designed to blend into its wooded backland context. To this end there is a simple aesthetic concept to emphasise the vertical articulation of the building, with views through the building defined by slender vertical elements that echo the experience of looking through trees.

The ground floor walls are cast in concrete with vertical timber formwork, giving a vertical panelling effect with an expressive natural grain and texture that blends into the surroundings. The locally sourced larch formwork was carefully chosen to give a relief that was prominent but refined to suite the domestic scale of the building. To reduce the environmental impact of the construction, these larch boards were re-used to build the external timber clad walls to the courtyard and garden.

In contrast to the external walls, the internal staircore has a smooth finish to give a softer surface where it is touched by the inhabitants. To contrast the matt concrete finishes of the walls, a polished concrete floor was installed throughout the ground floor which extends the verticality of the slender glulam columns through their abstracted reflections.

The house features bespoke, on-site crafted joinery made from oak veneered play with brass detailing. Two handmade chandeliers, constructed from leftover gold aluminium sections from the cladding, hang in the double height void spaces at either end of the glass link.

The building has been designed as a ‘healthy’ house with organic, solvent-free paint throughout and zero-formaldehyde materials to create a healthy internal environment.

Sustainable features of the house include thermodynamic roof panels for the hot water, rain water harvesting, MHRV air handling and air source heat pumps to reducing the building’s dependence on carbon intensive energy sources. Innovative concrete thermal bridge detailing using insulated blocks and non-ferrous wall ties contribute to the thermal performance of the building envelope, reducing heat loss. The concrete walls also help to regulate the internal temperature, acting as thermal mass to store heat.

At the office all the morning, dined at home with my wife. After dinner with her by coach to see Mr. Moore, who continues ill. I took his books of accounts, and did discourse with him about my Lord’s and my own businesses, and there being Mr. Battersby by, did take notice of my having paid him the 100l. borrowed of him, which they both did confess and promise to return me my bond. Thence by water with Will. Howe to Westminster, and there staying a little while in the Hall (my wife’s father and mother being abroad, and so she returning presently) thence by coach to my Lord’s, and there I left money for Captain Ferrers to buy me two bands. So towards the New Exchange, and there while my wife was buying things I walked up and down with Dr. Williams, talking about my law businesses, and thence took him to my brother’s, and there gave him a glass of wine, and so parted, and then by coach with my wife home, and Sir J. M. and Sir W. B. being come from Chatham Pay I did go see them for complaisance, and so home and to bed.

after-dinner discourse
about how to stay lit:
the mother talking
to the wine

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 7 October 1662.

Sir W. Pen and I early to St. James’s by water, where Mr. Coventry, finding the Duke in bed, and not very well, we did not stay to speak with him, but to White Hall, and there took boat and down to Woolwich we went. In our way Mr. Coventry telling us how of late upon enquiry into the miscarriages of the Duke’s family, Mr. Biggs, his steward, is found very faulty, and is turned out of his employment. Then we fell to reading of a book which I saw the other day at my Lord Sandwich’s, intended for the late King, finely bound up, a treatise concerning the benefit the Hollanders make of our fishing, but whereas I expected great matters from it, I find it a very impertinent, and though some things good, yet so full of tautologies, that we were weary of it.
At Woolwich we mustered the yard, and then to the Hart to dinner, and then to the Rope-yard, where I did vex Sir W. Pen I know to appear so well acquainted, I thought better than he, in the business of hemp; thence to Deptford, and there looked over several businesses, and wakened the officers there; so walked to Redriffe, and thence, landing Sir W. Pen at the Tower, I to White Hall with Mr. Coventry, and so to my Lord Sandwich’s lodgings, but my Lord was not within, being at a ball this night with the King at my Lady Castlemaine’s at next door. But here to my trouble I hear that Mr. Moore is gone very sick to the Wardrobe this afternoon, which troubles me much both for his own sake and for mine, because of my law business that he does for me and also for my Lord’s matters. So hence by water, late as it was, to the Wardrobe, and there found him in a high fever, in bed, and much cast down by his being ill. So thought it not convenient to stay, but left him and walked home, and there weary went to supper, and then the barber came to me, and after he had done, to my office to set down my journall of this day, and so home and to bed.

water is a book
full of tautologies
weary to the ear

I wake in the night
on my waterbed
weary journal

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 6 October 1662.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed talking with my wife, and among other things fell out about my maid Sarah, whom my wife would fain put away, when I think her as good a servant as ever came into a house, but it seems my wife would have one that would dress a head well, but we were friends at last.
I to church; and this day the parson has got one to read with a surplice on. I suppose himself will take it up hereafter, for a cunning fellow he is as any of his coat. Dined with my wife, and then to talk again above, chiefly about her learning to dance against her going next year into the country, which I am willing she shall do.
Then to church to a tedious sermon, and thence walked to Tom’s to see how things are in his absence in the country, and so home and in my wife’s chamber till bedtime talking, and then to my office to put things in order to wait on the Duke to-morrow morning, and so home and to bed.

I put away my head,
friend to this arson—
for I am ill—
and walk to see how things are
in his absence.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 5 October 1662.

To my office all the morning, after I was up (my wife beginning to make me lie long a mornings), where we sat till noon, and then dined at home, and after a little with my workmen to my office till 9 at night, among other things examining the particulars of the miscarriage of the Satisfaction, sunk the other day on the Dutch coast through the negligence of the pilott.

I lie till noon
and dine till nine at night
examining the miscarriage
of satisfaction

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 4 October 1662.

Second trial taking anti-seizure
medication. On the first, notices
stuck sideways on the bottle warned
to be aware of side effects, among
the possible were hallucinations,

visual. On day eight of that first
pass, a large brown rat escaped my
mind to race across the kitchen
floor, an event that startled me,

but was totally ignored by both
the husband and the hound. Day nine
morning, it returned in confidence,
parading its invisibility in face
of all but me. Then that was it.

No further visitations. But then,
an unexpected shift in care, a four-
day lapse in medications, and it’s
back to the beginning, second dial-

up on that prescription. Days one
through six were uneventful, but
this morning when I turned on lights,
an owl perched on the wood back
of a kitchen chair turret-turned

its head to face me, gave a blink
and then turned back to stare
at the space beneath the pantry
cupboard. I approached and stuck

my hand right through it, but it
would not be displaced, talon-
grip dissuaded. Sudden understanding
grips me: it is hungry, it too has
been counting days and so it waits

here for tomorrow’s manna, the fat
rat I’m half-expecting to appear.

After an entry from The Morning Porch.