• Anu van Warmelo

Inside Outside

When in Bishopsteignton in South Devon last week, I was fascinated by some of the architecture. A quiet village, difficult to access, in its seclusion it seemed to encourage some unfettered creativity unhindered by the eyes of the world. A case in point is this building at the centre of the village:

Its charm and serenity - despite being by the main street - is enhanced by the unusual veranda, its unusualness being that it's there at all. Not a common sight in the UK.

This is a shame as a space around dwellings which serves as a connection between indoors and out, between nature and domesticity, is fairly standard elsewhere in the world. The Japanese have an engawa - in films you often see residents 'hanging out' on them. It may seem that the British climate is simply against us having such an open relationship with nature. Indeed, in Cornwall traditional houses seem specifically geared to shut out the elements with their small windows and thick granite walls.

One could argue that conservatories function as indoor-outdoor spaces, but they lack the versatility of both ventilation and sightlines which an engawa or veranda can provide. However, there are different types of engawas, some of which run inside the amados (storm shutters) and others which run outside and are weather-proofed. Thus, there are ways to get round the problem even in northern climes, and I often come across creative solutions by clients, such as meandering conservatories, or small balconies, each doing what they can in the situation. The main thing is to first recognise the need for a half-way space, that there is something inside us that goes 'Ahhh' when we catch sight of a veranda or similar, like the one in the picture.