Cantilever building: 4 Grand Designs projects

These outstanding homes appear to defy the laws of physics with their overhanging structures.

By Hugh Metcalf | 9 November 2020

A cantilever building is one where part of the structure protrudes beyond the rest. The structural support in only one portion of its length. It’s an architectural technique seen in several of the most iconic Grand Designs homes.

Shipping container home

When planning to construct a new home on his parent’s land in County Derry, Northern Ireland, architect Patrick Bradley turned to metal shipping containers for a low-cost cantilever building. The house is essentially two containers set one on top of the other, at right angles. The upper storey overhangs the ground floor at both ends and includes a balcony surrounded by steel fins. They serve to prevent too much solar gain overheating the living space.  The containers were insulated and weatherproofed to prevent the build-up of moisture that might cause the metal to rust.

The exterior of a cantilever building created by placing one shipping container on top of the other.

The shipping containers form a cruciform shape. Photo: Aidan Monaghan

Read more: TV House: Shipping container home in County Derry

Periscope House

Natasha Cargill’s Grand Design is most recognisable for its symmetrical cedar-clad boxes. They both extend beyond the ground floor and include balconies providing views over the River Tud valley in Norfolk. The timber-clad periscope designs are at slightly different angles. This allows more light to reach the thermal-mass staircase and to give each wing a different outlook.

The exterior of a house with symmetrical cantilever first floor wings. The top floor is clad in cedar boards.

The first floor bedrooms have full length bi-folding doors. Photo: Darren Chung

Glass house

Carl Turner and Mary Martin’s self build in Brixton consists of a stack of three cantilevered glass-clad rectangles. The house takes up the entirety of the plot they sub-divided from the original house on the site. Its design makes efficient use of the space with a small wildflower garden on the second storey cantilever to bring greenery to the space.