• Ric Blenkharn

Traditionalist or Modernist?

My fellow director recently met a potential new client who asked:

“Are you the Traditionalist or the Modernist?”

The comment really made me chuckle and I was intrigued to think that the practice was viewed in this way. Did we really seem as though we had two parallel strands that were totally opposite in their approach?


The reality is far from that, and perhaps if there needs to be a word to describe our work it would be ‘contextualist’. By this, I mean that every project is unique. It is a unique response to both brief and site to then produce a scheme appropriate to both parameters.


This approach has produced some intriguing buildings, which hopefully are seen to fit comfortably into their location and have a sense of belonging or place - buildings at one with their setting. For instance, we have designed and built a number of new houses built into the sides of hills, essentially having a single aspect. The technical challenges of such developments demand discipline and produce some fascinating solutions. By virtue of their design they would not be considered traditional, perhaps seen as contemporary, but importantly seen as rooted to their location. Being single aspect, the houses have large areas of glazing to maximise both views and clearly to illuminate their interiors.

A new single-aspect house built into an existing hillside near Leeming, West Yorkshire


We have designed a new building house and surgery on an exposed North Sea coast. To stand the rigour of the challenging location, the robust building has been clad in stone with deeply set reveals to protect window openings. The resulting building has become a local landmark, which will stand proudly for future generations to admire.

Sandsend Surgery, with house above, on the North Sea coast


Building also near to the sea, we designed a poetic house shaped on plan like a leaf. The leaf opens outwards to engage with a 180 degree view of Filey Bay. The other aspect houses a suite of bedrooms clad in timber to respond to the wooded location. The house in itself displays two distinct characters, one side of openness the other of closure.

The Leaf House, near Filey, North Yorkshire


In a magnificent location of several hundred acres, we have designed what can only be described as a proud, traditionally detailed country house. It follows the typology found in the rural landscape of a distinctive house set in appropriately landscaped grounds. Built in stone under a slate roof, the building has majestic Georgian styled windows to capture the expansive views across open rolling countryside.

New country house, North Yorkshire


In a local town we have designed a fascinating three-storey house, with a plan of interlocking curving walls. Inspired by a client’s love of geology, like an ammonite the house gently opens to reveal wonderful views across an enclosed south facing garden. From the street, walls curve to embrace a formal entrance. On opening the door a double height glass roofed space is crossed by a glass bridge, producing a dramatic light filled space. From here a massive stone wall curves inwards and downwards into a tight spiral stair leading to lower level accommodation. A double height oval shaped office building sits slightly remote from the main house, accessed by a glazed link, announcing the departure from the house into the office.


New house, Harrogate, North Yorkshire


In the same town, we have designed a group of four town houses, taking their design cues from a majestic adjoining red brick church. A sawtooth roof profile reflects the sawtooth eaves detailing of the church building.


In a village outside Leeds, we designed a new church building. The scheme was designed as a series of 3 linked buildings, to overcome issues of building on a former coalfield. Each element of the building is constructed off a reinforced concrete raft, so that they can 'float' and move independently if any movement over time. Built of stone, the roofs are clad in stainless steel and incorporate large areas of roof glazing to illuminate the main worship space.


So, traditionalist or modernist? I’ll leave it for you to decide!





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