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Designs and Competitions

In addition to his predominant practical involvement in works to existing houses, for which he has won awards, James Dunnett has prepared designs for a number of urban contexts and entered a number of competitions for new-build houses, parking structures, office buildings, medical and other residential buildings. In these he has intended to embody Modern Movement objectives of ‘light, space, and greenery’, as well as clarity of structure and plan. In a number of projects he has also explored the application of Modern Movement principles of urban form.


Domestic Designs under Development

Chichester Car Park competition

This was a design competition in the 1980s for a site near the medieval town walls. James Dunnett conceived a car park on three levels partially sunk into the ground with earth ramped around much of the perimeter, so as diminish the perception of it as a building as far as possible and reduce its impact  on the historic and green environment.

Conygre Court, Gloucestershire

This was a design competition held in 2001 for the design of a country house on a site in the Cotswolds, which it was specified should be in a ‘classical style’. James Dunnett believed that classical virtues could be embodied in a more Modern design, without the need to resort to an anachronistic ‘Neo-Georgian’, and his design envisaged the use of an expressed concrete frame with exposed aggregate and a local rubble stone infilling.

Highbury Corner, Islington, London N1

As a contribution to a long-running local debate and prompted by Councillors James Dunnett has produced a number sketch proposals for the layout of various key Islington locations, including this one for Highbury Corner, intending to link presently fragmented open spaces and rationalise traffic patterns.

Iona Hostel Competition

This was a competition held in 1988 for the design of residential hostel to be built on the historic island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland, for use by the religious community there. In response to the demand for a building that could as far as possible be pre-fabricated and to the emphasis on the hostile climatic conditions, James Dunnett envisaged a shallow domed circular structure, using laminated timber beams, which would have a low wind profile and minimal external wall surface in relation to floor area. The plan form also described the Celtic cross, of which there are ancient stone examples on the island.

Kings Cross Railways Lands, London

The long process of deciding on a plan for the redevelopment of the extensive disused former marshalling yards to the north of King’s Cross and St Pancras Sations was already under way by 1990. James Dunnett envisaged that it could provide an opportunity for the study of optimal urban form on the site, to ensure that every inhabitant could enjoy ‘Light, Space, Greenery’ from their homes – whilst meeting the acute shortage of public green space in the London Borough of Islington, whose border ran down the eastern edge of the site. The whole of the site to the north of the Regent’s Canal was seen as a green area studded by listed buildings and overlooked by a long perimeter residential block shielding it from noise from the railway lines.

St Andrew’s Church, Thornhill Square, Islington, London N1

James Dunnett has produced a number of proposals for partially restoring the interior of the Grade 2-listed church dating from 1854, whose interior was largely stripped and partitioned in the 1970s, leaving a long and windowless nave. In essence the proposal has been and is to re-open one of the original arcades, allowing natural light into the church, whilst installing an upper level in the opposite aisle and partitioning the western end of the nave. The result would be a substantial increase in the usable worship space and ancillary space and recovery of natural light and architectural values.

South Bank

James Dunnett was asked by the Twentieth Century Society in 1994 to report on the results of a competition for proposals to upgrade the South Bank Arts Complex in London. He suggested that instead of  altering the present Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall radically and covering them in a ‘glass wave’ , as proposed by the winning scheme,  they should be rebuilt upstream of Hungerford Bridge, returning their present site downstream of the Festival Hall to the greener, more open character it had during the Festival of Britain. This would  also allow for rebuilding there the Skylon as a vertical feature in place of the original Shot Tower. The aim was to achieve a better relationship of buildings to open spaces.

Whalley Country House competition

A competition in 2000 sought a design for a country house on a commanding sloping site above the village of Whalley in Lancashire. James Dunnett envisaged a two storey house of two blocks built into the sloping hillside, so that the house was entered at its upper level on the uphill side, with steps descending to the lower level within a double-height living room overlooking wide views and a lake to the south. The walls were to be of random local stone and the roofs turfed.