On a restricted suburban plot by Lake Zürich, Lütjens Padmanabhan has brought a new wit and richness to the semi-detached house
The semi-detached house is a peculiarly British architectural compromise. An expedient answer to the problem of housing the burgeoning middle classes, the “semi” exploded in popularity between the wars as the perfect solution for those keen to escape the anonymous barracks of the terrace, but not quite able to afford the extravagance of a single standalone dwelling. Now more than a third of the UK population lives in one; it has come to represent the essence of cosy suburbia, the accidental icon of middle England.
For the proliferation of the standardised semi, we have John Claudius Loudon to thank, whose 1838 manual, The Suburban Gardener and Villa Companion, set out a catalogue of rules for what was then confusingly termed the “double detached house”. One of the key objects of combining two smaller houses in one building, he argued, was “to give dignity and consequence to each dwelling by making it appear to have the magnitude of two houses”...
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Originally published in BD, 25 May 2011