Architecture: How the need for a dining room becomes a triumph for the spirit of enlightenment

Here are three projects to lift the spirits, particularly spirits trapped in the houses they already occupy: a glass dining room, an extension that takes a house's inside outside and, perhaps most pleasing of all, an idea that turns a bland basement window into a work of art. Not simply a matter of let there be light; also let there be excitement. Nonie Niesewand talks to the architects on site.

An extension to your house built out of glass? The word conservatory comes to mind, closely followed by the names Merchant Ivory. Isn't every glass structure attached to every house you've seen redolent of the past? Too hot or too cold. Too bright or hazed with condensation and dependant on a skeleton of wood or metal.

If that is your idea of heaven, so be it. But there are other possibilities that are more exciting, more practical, more modern. The structure shown here has none of those old conservatory characteristics.

The secret is partly with the architects, but mostly it lies in the glass. Pilkington's K glass is coated in silicone; it doesn't overheat and it has the best UV factor of any glass tough enough to form a facade. Silicone sealing makes joints invisible. And look! No glazing bars!

The Royal Institute of British Architects, in search of potential winners of its Stirling Prize, has chosen a handful of small-scale extensions to town houses. Here are three of them. Interestingly enough, they are all dining rooms - just when you thought kitchens had swallowed them up for ever.

A Glazed dining room extension on a Georgian house

Far from moving somewhere smaller once their five children had grown up and left, architect Cany Ash's parents wanted more dining space for their five children and grandchildren to meet. Their friendly Shaker-style kitchen ended in an L-shape with a large picture window installed in the Seventies, when the place was used as a nursery school.

Rather than close off the pretty garden with its well established cherry tree, Cany Ash and fellow architect Robert Sakula determined to wrap one side of the kitchen with a glazed front extension, sheltered by a cantilevered glass roof. Pilkington K glass, with its silicone joints that obviate the need for glazing bars, gave them scope to shape the conservatory in a very intricate, geometric way.

"Silicone glazing opened a new way of thinking and let us use glass in a skeletal way," says Ash. Each glazed wall panel just slightly alters the angle or lowers the height to join on to the next, like a great glazed caterpillar - all the more remarkable when you consider that glass is straight, flat, hard and cold.

To match the evolutionary path that the extension takes, the giant cantilevered roof above is jointed at different angles like a giant pterodactyl wing. The staggered gradient means that the glass extension goes from the full height of the first-floor landing down to the relatively low garden entrance that matches the height of the remaining picture window. Acid-etched egg shapes on each roof panel cast interesting opaque reflections at night when small halogen up-lighters set in the slate floor beam up at them. Heating runs under the slate floor which extends into the terraced garden in great zig-zags. These simple cut-out shapes help to extend the boundaries beyond the new glass extension and link outside with in.

The Ashes say that sitting in their new extension is like being in the garden which envelopes them. Even better, the heat retained in a typical sheet of double-glazed K glass is equal to that retained in a brick wall. As Cany Ash says: "You're not throwing money through the glass."

Contract Value: pounds 16,000

RIBA jury comments: "... creature-like image of F wings of the roof in glass ... a guillotine of glass slicing through the slate paving ... crafted detailing".

A dark basement dining room sees the light

A new building opposite blocked what little light there was in the basement dining room of a London couple's flat. Rather than live with the lights on all day the owners commissioned the architect Nick Coombe and designer Jonathan Stickland to solve the problem. Caroline Yates, who teaches at Prue Leith's cookery school, identified Stickland as a designer she liked from his set-squared filo pastry cases on her course.

He replaced the original sash window with 10ml toughened plate glass, etched on one side, which spans one metre. It swivels within the pilastered niche, cantilevering above it to shield the pavement grilles or coming down at an angle like a shade to diffuse the light. They dug deep into the plasterwork and angled it interestingly to frame the installation. A single down-lighter halogen beam - which they call the "soup ladle" - highlights the sculpture. Stainless steel spikes protect the toughened glass of the long horizontal window at pavement level. It was difficult to get planning permission but Stickland argued that rights to daylight are not a planning issue.

Contract Value pounds 10,000

RIBA Jury comments: " ... minimal impact on the street ... an example of what can be achieved on a modest scheme through detailed design".

Taking a dining room into the garden

Like every modern architect, Chris Wilkinson dreamed of building his own home from scratch. But the reality and difficulty of finding a site - and then the time to actually build - meant that when the family moved home last year, they bought a Victorian house in Dulwich, South London, and decided to extend the dining space to house their Charles Eames table. Rather than make the distinction between inside and outside too obvious, Wilkinson decided to extend the white-plastered party wall from inside the dining room to the garden wall outside, as well as the sandstone floor. This makes the extension more like a room installation than a patio adjoining a dining room. Pilkington K glass joined with silicone seals practically make the walls disappear.

"Besides," says Wilkinson, "it's got the lowest UV rating." Indoors, a glass panel within the roof has a chamfered frame like a light-box, angled to bring the sky indoors by day. At night it makes a spectacular frame for the fibre-optic sculptures that his sculptor wife, Diane Edmunds, makes. Both of them were inspired by the way in which the American sculptor James Turrell uses structure to capture light. The flat roof is emphasised with a steel joist profile and at one side a piece of architectural ironmongery jutting from the roof has a long chain carrying rainwater down it into a deep channel that demarcates the terrace. Architects' Journal gave Chris Wilkinson their recent cover story for his celebrated public projects, which include the Stratford railway station, where the Jubilee line terminates, as well as the recently opened Stratford Market train shed, the Challenge of Materials gallery at the Science Museum, the South Quay footbridge in Docklands, the Tyne Millennium bridge as well as Science World in Bristol. No wonder Chris Wilkinson calls the dining room extension to his Victorian family home a "very minor project".

Contract Value: pounds 35,000

RIBA jury comments: "... stealthy detailing ... a new and airy relationship between the house and garden ... refinement and restraint".

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick