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Concrete at Hungry House

At Hungry House, one of the materials we experimented most with was concrete. There were four particular elements that were new and untried to us - two precast, and two in-situ cast. They worked out fantastically well - and we learnt a lot of useful lessons that we have taken forward to other projects.

The first in-situ element was a plinth that runs all around the new brick volumes at the base. It creates a weighty base to the building, stepping up and down as the ground level changes, and protecting the more porous brick and timber frame above. We had two iterations of this as an early version was tried on the garage that we built as the first phase. The second version - on the main house - came out brilliantly, and we're now doing something similar at Stoke Barn.

The second in-situ element was a massive curving stair that ended in a landing that bridged between the two brick volumes. This was a huge undertaking which was led by our regular collaborator Thomas Goodey, a fantastic fabricator and designer. He carefully built the curving formwork with huge precision, and then we cast several tonnes of concrete, in four pours.

The stair has an appealing roughness that came from the casting process.

The first pre-cast element was a set of lintels that would appear, when installed, to sit only above the door or window opening. We worked with our engineers to develop a design that used the contrasting structural qualities of steel and concrete - tension and compression - to achieve this. We cast the lintels on site to formwork we made ourselves.

The second precast element were concrete floor slabs for all the ground floor rooms. We wanted the smooth, warm texture of concrete, with the rhythm of paving slabs, but no off-the-shelf products existed and bespoke concrete specialists quoted unbelievable prices.

Luckily, one of the labourers we had on site had a sideline in making concrete garden pavers. We ordered some stainless steel moulds in the sizes that we wanted, and set him to work. For a fraction of the price, we got a fantastic result - smooth, with a subtle variation and almost polished finish.