home of the Sliding House

   The website of Ross Russell and Sally Morris:
   documenting progress on our project to design and build our house in Suffolk in the far east of England.

update photopanorama compressed

Here is the design we are now working on, which Alex refers to as the Sliding House.

The idea (not shown in the photographs I’m afraid) is to put all of the buildings on one axis running along the entire South East boundary of the plot.  At the road end would be a garage.  Then there would be an open terrace, with the house then aligned with the garage. There would then be another terrace, perhaps with pool. The guest annex sits out to one side of the main axis.   The line of the pitched roofs would be continuous from one end to the other (apart from the annex), including a the pitched roof of a glass cover for the pool.  The whole scheme would be some 60m long!

An essential part of this design is that the house would be in two parts.  The floors and some internal walls would be fixed to the foundations. But the side walls and roof would be made as a single rigid component and would run on rails. So this envelope could move away from the house itself leaving it fully open to the sunshine (or to the cold East Anglian winds, depending on point of view). The advanced version of this one has a cover for the swimming pool which is mainly glass and which has the same shape as the envelope to the house.  So that in Spring or Autumn, the opaque envelope could be slid out of the way and the whole house could be under glass.  Dramatic or what? Also probably expensive!

What makes this possible is a building technique whereby the whole envelope structure would be made of what amounts to heavy duty plywood. It is an Austrian system called KLH , made from regular softwood formed into panels of substantial thickness. Each section of the envelope to the house would be made from one single piece of this material, cut to size in their factory and delivered to the site. So the entire envelope of the house would be made up of four bits of wood glued and bolted together before being clad for weatherproofing and insulation.

It is an innovative design, which we are inspired by.  But we are both worried about whether it can be made acceptable to the local planning authority and whether the extra expense can be justified.


position 1

This is dRMM’s model of the sliding house - a rather better version than my primitive version shown previously on these pages.

Position 1 is shown left - the one we would use most of the time.  The main house is covered, the terrace beyond the house (shown with a swimming pool) is open and there is a glasshouse standing about not doing very much at all beyond that.  In this position we might use the glasshouse to shelter less hardy plants (such as citrus trees).  The entrance to the house would be on the side shown here but most of the windows are to the other side overlooking the rest of the plot.  The outer envelope is the weatherproof and waterproof section so it has all the window glass and the door (which therefore move as the envelope moves).

The red block is the (immobile) guest annex and the other block is the (also immobile) garage and workshop.    

position 3

This is the position in which the house becomes  its own conservatory. The main outer envelope is slid back some 12 metres (in fact over the top of the garage block).  This means that what was a courtyard between the three separate buildings now becomes a covered space.  And the glasshouse is slid into action to cover the house and make it watertight. 

The tricky bit in here is to make the joins all watertight and weatherproof. The two gable ends are stationary and the buildings slide over them - so each one needs a weatherproof seal, similar to the way sliding windows in a car require a seal. 

position 2

And this is the (partly) open position.  The main bedroom is upstairs at the near end of the house so remains covered at all times. But the upstairs living space, the dining space and the kitchen downstairs and some of the other upstairs rooms are all open. There is a low bookshelf surrounding the upstairs area which acts as a safety barrier and keeps out the worst of the wind. But downstairs would be fully open to the surrounding gardens.

Note the glazed gable which in this position is free-standing and largely unsupported. One of the key jobs will be to get the engineering of this right so that it is able to withstand the wind (it faces southwest, which is the prevailing wind direction)


And this is the house shown without any covering at all - which could not be done in practice although it is helpful to show the room layout. The detail of the room layout is actually still being worked on and will almost certainly change. Upstairs is the living space, then the stairway, then an en-suite dressing room and bathroom and then the bedroom at the back. Downstairs there is a double height dining room with a kitchen behind it (under the cantilevered floor to the living room),  Behind that is a utility room and then bedroom/study/library space.

One of the things we need to work on are the long corridor on this side of the downstairs space.  This is needed to accommodate a front door which moves as the house opens.  But it does contravene my “no corridors” rule.  Another is the stairway, which is functional but misses an opportunity to make better use of the hallway space.










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