Box House is one of 10 pioneering self-built houses, built at Graven Hill in Bicester: a development which will eventually comprise 1900 Custom and Self Build (CSB) homes. The Graven Hill development is of national significance, a ‘vanguard’ project helping to meet the government’s commitment to doubling the number of CSB Homes by 2020. Box House featured on the new Grand Designs spin-off (known as Grand Designs: The Street) in April 2019.

Project Name: Box House
Architect Name: Studio Bark

CSB housing is a spectrum, from true ‘Self-build’, where the client physically builds the house themselves, to ‘custom build’, where the client has design input to an externally procured construction. The young clients for this site were stuck in the middle. They did not have the budget to pay for an external contractor, nor the specialist skills to lead the build process themselves.

As a direct response to this brief, Studio Bark developed an innovative system of flat-pack timber building boxes, known as U-Build. The box modules were simple enough to be built by the client, but complex enough to perform the many requirements of a building envelope, and meet the stringent tests of the structural warranty provider. The flat-pack U-Build system is modular, flexible and can be ‘nested’ onto standard sheets of plywood, resulting in minimal wastage.

The two bedroom, 95 sqm house took around 100 cutting hours in total. The project was constructed solely using manual handling techniques by the client with the assistance of Studio Bark and a small team of architecture students.

Studio Bark

Studio Bark is an award-winning architecture practice creating inspiring and ambitious buildings.

They are a collaborative team of architects, designers and makers based in East London. As a young studio, their work is diverse, interesting and constantly evolving. They believe in the transformational potential of the built-environment and have a passion for outstanding environmentally-driven architecture. They deliver bespoke, unconventional buildings which are inherently contextual and inspired by meaningful investigation of site.

Environmental design is a core part of the process: our work incorporates best practice principles while attempting to push the boundaries of ecologically-conscious architecture. We believe that compelling architecture can realise the latent potential of a site and bring joy to people’s lives.

Their portfolio of built work encompasses residential, commercial and community projects with a particular specialism in bespoke homes. We have a successful track record, securing planning permission for ambitious designs on challenging urban, suburban and rural sites across the UK. They have extensive experience delivering projects through Paragraph 79 (previously para 55 – the ‘country house exception clause’) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Through continuous dialogue with academia, they are investing in the next generation of architects, periodically running educational construction projects to explore the rich territory between the speculative and the pragmatic. Specialist construction and fabrication services are provided through our contracting arm, Studio Bark Projects where required. They also developed the U-Build flat pack self build system for the benefit of our clients.


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