Architects Rachel Coll and David Tigg designed a home to meet the accessibility needs of one young family. 

house for theo oskar - accessible home - grand designs


Image: The timber roof, which acts as a continuous canopy throughout the extension, is punctuated with roof lights. Photo: Andy Matthews

Nick and Klara Taussig launched an architecture competition in 2016, when their sons Theo and Oskar were aged three and five. The boys had been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a condition that involves progressive muscle weakness and affects mobility. The aim was to create a light, spacious and barrier-free home to help with Theo and Oskar’s needs. Rachel Coll and David Tigg of Tigg + Coll Architects entered their ideas for layout and structural changes, which won them the competition and the work.

The Grand Designs magazine team spoke to the architects about this important project. 

Why was this project so important to your clients?

The Taussig family were in many ways very typical in situation when you they start a search for an architect to help them, but what made this one an endeavour of such importance was that the boys Theo and Oskar, who were aged 3 and 5 at the start of the project, suffer from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. As they grow their needs will change and we had to design a house that had to be able to physically adapt to those changes, not necessarily knowing how they may manifest in future.

 house for theo oskar - accessible home - grand designs

Image: A cantilevered roof overhang is angled to let in light and for the views across the garden, while limiting solar gain in the summer. Photo: Andy Matthews

What were the main challenges you faced?

A key issue was to figure out how to adapt a period cottage to provide level access on the ground floor for wheelchairs, as well as space for the whole family to enjoy. The new wraparound extension includes three ground-floor bedrooms, one each for Theo, Oskar and their younger brother, Luca, while Nick and Klara’s bedroom is on the same floor in the original house with a guest bedroom upstairs. Another important part of the brief was to integrate the front and back gardens with the interior. We gave careful consideration to levelling out the plot. The front driveway was re-landscaped and Oskar and Theo’s rooms have glazed sliding doors that can be recessed into the walls for an open connection with the rear garden.

 house for theo oskar - accessible home - grand designs

Image: Andy Matthews

Tell us about the extension...

We needed to create a space with few columns or structural walls so the footprint could be altered as needed. The roof design was crucial to this.

While we wanted the timber diagrid roof to be a beautiful feature in its own right, it also had to be extremely strong. The design is self-supporting over large spans so that the partition walls are non-structural and can be moved. In the future, hoists and other health equipment that the boys may require can be supported off the exposed joists. The structure also allows for a big external cantilever, which creates a covered protective canopy that forms a play area and veranda.

house for theo oskar - accessible home - grand designs

Image: Andy Matthews

Find out more about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at Duchenne UK, and charity funding research at Harrison’s Fund.


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