10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Known for his stripped-back approach to home design, award-winning RIBA architect Piers Taylor focuses more on light and space than expensive features as he challenges mainstream architectural conventions.

British architect Piers Taylor is the founder of two architectural practices, Invisible Studio and Mitchell Taylor Workshop (now Mitchell Eley Gould) prior to that. A former design fellow at the University of Cambridge and a studio master at London's Architectural Association, Taylor has also established a number of educational programs, including the annual Studio in the Woods. On top of all that, he also appears as the co-host of the BBC Two’s The World's Most Extraordinary Homes series available on Netflix.

Taylor's projects push boundaries in terms of cost, technique, and process—but he doesn't consider his work avant-garde. "In many ways, I don’t see our work as unconventional—it does what people have done for thousands of years, in that it takes the materials, available resources, and skills from any given context and uses them to make buildings," Taylor tells us. "Often, the contexts that we work in have limited resources and few conventional building skills, so our buildings might appear to be fairly raw or frugal. It’s only in recent years that design has become synonymous with a kind of grotesque, applied luxury. We have no interest in that world of design, and our work in some ways offers an alternative, lower-impact model of architecture to many practices today." 

Keep scrolling to take a look at 10 of our favorite projects by Taylor.

Moonshine

Taylor's own home is a renovation of an old gamekeeper's cottage four miles outside of the city of Bath, which he dramatically modernized for his family in 2008. The transformation earned him an AJ Small Project Award in 2009. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 1 of 26 - Moonshine is beautifully set in an isolated spot in the English countryside outside of Bath. The dramatic juxtaposition of a stone gamekeeper's cottage and a modern, timber-framed addition gives the home a pastoral feel while capitalizing on the dramatic view of St. Catherine's Valley.

Moonshine is beautifully set in an isolated spot in the English countryside outside of Bath. The dramatic juxtaposition of a stone gamekeeper's cottage and a modern, timber-framed addition gives the home a pastoral feel while capitalizing on the dramatic view of St. Catherine's Valley.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 2 of 26 - The modern timber-framed addition. 

The modern timber-framed addition. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 3 of 26 - The interior of Moonshine.

The interior of Moonshine.

Room 13

A direct response to its gritty, urban context, Room 13 in Bristol is a community art studio where resident artists work alongside excluded children. Nicholas Serota, former director of London's Tate Gallery, called this "the most important model for art education we have today." A perfect example that low-grade, everyday materials can be beautiful, the studio is heated and cooled by a ground source heat pump, and the "snouts" act as ventilation and light shafts. Room 13 won a RIBA Award in 2007 as well as a regional sustainability award. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 4 of 26 - Built out of raw concrete blocks, the building's interior is finished with bare plywood, OSB, and a varnished concrete screed. 

Built out of raw concrete blocks, the building's interior is finished with bare plywood, OSB, and a varnished concrete screed. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 5 of 26 - The head of the RIBA jury panel remarked about Room 13, "It shows me that more than anything, architecture is about people."

The head of the RIBA jury panel remarked about Room 13, "It shows me that more than anything, architecture is about people."

Trailer (Equivalent #2) 

Built by Invisible Studio in the woods near Bath, Trailer (Equivalent #2) is a fiberglass- and steel-clad cabin first conceived as a prototype for an economical, self-built, mobile home. The dwelling, suitable as a permanent or temporary accommodation, can be legally transported on a public highway like a trailer. A removable, wheeled "bogey" slides out from under the steel chassis when the building is not in motion. The total cost of construction was kept to £20,000 by using second-hand materials and waste from other construction sites. The aim of the project was to provide a super low-cost, versatile, usable space that could act as a kit of parts for any self-builder to improvise around or easily adapt. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 6 of 26 - The trailer is clad in corrugated fiberglass and steel, and internally lined in used, cleaned shuttering plywood. 

The trailer is clad in corrugated fiberglass and steel, and internally lined in used, cleaned shuttering plywood. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 7 of 26 - All of the joinery is crafted from plywood offcuts, including the two staircases. Handrails are made from offcuts of blue rope, leftovers from Invisible Studio's Studio in the Woods program. Both gable ends, "glazed" with high-performance interlocking polycarbonate, afford lots of light.

All of the joinery is crafted from plywood offcuts, including the two staircases. Handrails are made from offcuts of blue rope, leftovers from Invisible Studio's Studio in the Woods program. Both gable ends, "glazed" with high-performance interlocking polycarbonate, afford lots of light.

Visible Studio 

Built by Invisible Studio with the help of neighbors and friends—none of whom had ever constructed a building before—Visible Studio uses untreated and unseasoned timber grown in the surrounding woodland.  The project was an exercise in establishing a system of building that could be constructed by unskilled labor with minimal drawings. The "mistakes" of the unskilled team remain evident in the building, with no attempt to conceal them. The total cost of the project, including materials and labor, was £15,000 (about $21,343.20).

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 8 of 26 - The studio is built on two floors—there is a 592-square-foot enclosed space accessed via a bridge from the slope, which is above an open workshop.

The studio is built on two floors—there is a 592-square-foot enclosed space accessed via a bridge from the slope, which is above an open workshop.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 9 of 26 - All of the timber was milled over the two days from trees that stood on the site of the future studio—no other timber was used.

All of the timber was milled over the two days from trees that stood on the site of the future studio—no other timber was used.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 10 of 26 - The constraints informed the building design, and were embraced—for example, the cladding that was milled at the end was only enough to partially clad the studio. 

The constraints informed the building design, and were embraced—for example, the cladding that was milled at the end was only enough to partially clad the studio. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 11 of 26 - Visible Studio is heated by waste wood from the woodland, and water from the roof feeds into an attenuation pond that forms a natural habitat. 

Visible Studio is heated by waste wood from the woodland, and water from the roof feeds into an attenuation pond that forms a natural habitat. 

Longdrop

A no-impact, composting toilet made by Invisible Studio to serve the Visible Studio, Longdrop was designed and made entirely from scavenged material left over from other projects, cost nothing to build, and boasts a modern profile. Longdrop was shortlisted for the AJ Small Projects Award.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 12 of 26 - The studwork, battens, and sheet material of Longdrop were all of varying sizes and left over from other projects.

The studwork, battens, and sheet material of Longdrop were all of varying sizes and left over from other projects.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 13 of 26 -
10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 14 of 26 - Waste materials are separated just below the seat. The urine is captured at ground level via a drainpipe, to be used as fertilizer, as it contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The solids are captured via a series of stacked, donated wheelie bins, and will be used as fertilizer once left for 12 months.

Waste materials are separated just below the seat. The urine is captured at ground level via a drainpipe, to be used as fertilizer, as it contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The solids are captured via a series of stacked, donated wheelie bins, and will be used as fertilizer once left for 12 months.

Starfall Farm 

The renovations for this farmhouse in St. Catherine's Valley, Gloucestershire, used materials from demolished barns, with cladding designed to conceal the proportions of an existing extension and reveal key views into the landscape. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 15 of 26 - Starfall has a very simple asymmetric section that allows the morning light to penetrate deep into the building and flood it with light. 

Starfall has a very simple asymmetric section that allows the morning light to penetrate deep into the building and flood it with light. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 16 of 26 - According to Invisible Studio, "The project was also a way of reconciling all the thermal deficiencies of Moonshine, which is far too lightweight. Starfall is ruthlessly thermally massive, and with it incredibly efficient."

According to Invisible Studio, "The project was also a way of reconciling all the thermal deficiencies of Moonshine, which is far too lightweight. Starfall is ruthlessly thermally massive, and with it incredibly efficient."

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 17 of 26 - The minimalist interiors are well-lit and showcase a simple material palette. 

The minimalist interiors are well-lit and showcase a simple material palette. 

Folded Studio

This "overspill" studio in Essex accommodates a home office and a potting room and was designed with a continuous, clerestory window that wraps around its upper portion.  The "folded" roof allows daylight to continuously penetrate into the space.  

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 18 of 26 - The studio was constructed with low-cost materials, such as profiled bitumen sheet for the roof, polycarbonate for the clerestory, and spruce ply linings.

The studio was constructed with low-cost materials, such as profiled bitumen sheet for the roof, polycarbonate for the clerestory, and spruce ply linings.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 19 of 26 - The "folded roof" is also designed to collect rainwater, which is harvested for the adjacent vegetable garden.

The "folded roof" is also designed to collect rainwater, which is harvested for the adjacent vegetable garden.

Caretaker’s House 

For the Caretaker’s House at Hooke Park, Invisible Studio was commissioned by the Architectural Association to develop a student schematic design into a low-cost timber prototype, using only timber that had been grown and felled on-site and in its green state.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 20 of 26 - Careful to preserve the intent of the student design, the building uses unseasoned larch, cedar, poplar, Douglas fir, and spruce as appropriate. Wood is also used for heating and insulation.

Careful to preserve the intent of the student design, the building uses unseasoned larch, cedar, poplar, Douglas fir, and spruce as appropriate. Wood is also used for heating and insulation.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 21 of 26 - As far as Invisible Studio is aware, the Caretaker's House is the world’s first green timber building insulated to Passive House standards, and with Passive House airtightness. 

As far as Invisible Studio is aware, the Caretaker's House is the world’s first green timber building insulated to Passive House standards, and with Passive House airtightness. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 22 of 26 - The construction process was super-efficient; even the joinery was manufactured on site. The kitchen (which uses exposed copper piping for taps) has chunky timber worktops, and the stairs use an innovative, dry-jointed system that gains strength as the timber dries. The handrail is made of mild steel bent piping, which was also welded on site.

The construction process was super-efficient; even the joinery was manufactured on site. The kitchen (which uses exposed copper piping for taps) has chunky timber worktops, and the stairs use an innovative, dry-jointed system that gains strength as the timber dries. The handrail is made of mild steel bent piping, which was also welded on site.

Westonbirt Mess Building 

For the Westonbirt National Arboretum Tree Management Center in Gloucestershire, Invisible Studio designed a series of buildings that used timber intelligently and could act as prototypes for rural buildings elsewhere. Their work consists of a large span workshop building, a new mess and educational facility, and a yard for the tree team. The mess building was the second one they constructed, and it was made entirely using Westonbirt’s own timber, which was grown and milled on-site with minimal processing. The building was constructed by skilled timber framers Nick Perchard and James Symon, who worked with unskilled volunteers throughout the project. It received a National RIBA Award in addition to three Regional RIBA Awards.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 23 of 26 - The engineering was deceptively complex, as the scale of the main timber structure is possibly the biggest ever in UK construction. 

The engineering was deceptively complex, as the scale of the main timber structure is possibly the biggest ever in UK construction. 

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 24 of 26 - The structure appears to glow from within at night. 

The structure appears to glow from within at night. 

Westonbirt Machinery Store

Another structure from Westonbirt that takes full advantage of the site's available timber, the award-winning machinery store offers a big-span timber alternative to the steel- or concrete-framed, "at-cost" rural barns. The big-span workshop uses 65.6-foot-long Corsican pine in continuous lengths that were then hewn by hand into structural sections.

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 25 of 26 - The building was constructed entirely from green timber grown and milled on-site at Westonbirt, with a series of interns and apprentices from the Carpenter’s Fellowship. The students gained valuable experience through the process of working alongside master carpenters.<br>&nbsp;<span style="color: rgb(204, 204, 204); font-size: 13px;">Invisible Studio</span>

The building was constructed entirely from green timber grown and milled on-site at Westonbirt, with a series of interns and apprentices from the Carpenter’s Fellowship. The students gained valuable experience through the process of working alongside master carpenters.
 Invisible Studio

10 Buildings We Love by Piers Taylor - Photo 26 of 26 - The project built upon design processes and construction methods that have evolved through the construction of the Caretaker's House and Visible Studio.

The project built upon design processes and construction methods that have evolved through the construction of the Caretaker's House and Visible Studio.

Starfall Farm and Room 13 were designed while Piers Taylor was a director of Mitchell Taylor Workshop prior to founding Invisible Studio.

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