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Murphy House

Richard Murphy Architects

Shared By

Morgan Day


Richard Murphy


  • General Contractor: Inscape Joinery
  • Structural Engineer: Create Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineer: Max Fordham

Project Status


Year Completed



165 sq. meters
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This project is on the longlist for the RIBA 2016 House of the Year Award.

Project Description


Firstly, with a modest floor area of 165 m2 on a footprint of only 11-by-6 meters, (formerly half of a garden to an apartment on Forth Street), it nevertheless contains three bedrooms, a living/dining/kitchen area at varying levels, study, basement storage, garage, utility room and roof terrace.

Secondly, it is an essay in how contemporary design might contribute to a historic and particular place in the New Town, in this instance an unresolved junction of two streets. The adjacent gable end should not have been exposed and the house deliberately responded by becoming a “bookend” to it, with its front façade continuing the stonework pattern of the street façade.

Thirdly, the house had to preserve the privacy and sky views from the adjacent apartment and this contributed to the bookend section.

Fourthly, there is a very strong energy agenda in the new house. The roof consists of photovoltaic cells and substantial south-facing glazing. Underneath this are mechanised insulated shutters allowing the glass to generate heat when open but preventing it radiating heat when closed. A computerised internal air circulation system takes warm air from the top of the house to the basement via a gravel rock store to produce a delayed heat source for evening use. The main heating source for the house is a 150 meters deep ground source borehole connecting to a heat exchanger which feeds under-floor heating. All the major windows to the house have insulated shutters. Rainwater which follows a course of pools and waterfalls on the roof terrace finds it way to grey-water storage tanks in the basement and is then used to flush toilets and supply a sprinkler system. Heat is extracted from the flue of a log burning stove to pre-heat hot water.

A final agenda is the many architectural influences at work. Not least is the work of Carlo Scarpa, on whom Richard Murphy is an authority. The roof terrace is a homage to the garden of the Querini Stampalia in Venice using the same exposed aggregate walls and sourcing tiles from Scarpa’s original manufacturer in Venice. Internally, the Venetian “stucco lucido” coloured plasterwork is used extensively. The Sir John Soane Museum and the Maison de Verre are also great influences in the use of illusion and moving elements. Reitveld’s Schroder house makes an appearance in a “disappearing corner” stone panel opening, designed to be the same proportions as his famous window.
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