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Fijal House by Mole Architects

Fijal House by Mole Architects

Fijal House is a new family house set in central Ely. The house replaced a garage on land originally intended as an additional plot when the street was laid out in 1905 and now sits between the two Edwardian detached houses. The architectural expression of the brick-clad house is a contemporary interpretation of the Edwardian differentiation between the plain flank walls and the decorative fronts. The vertical saw-tooth rhythm of the front elevation is derived from the engaged stone columns at the entrance to Ely cathedral and created with a fully bonded brick set at ninety-degree angles, with specials at the two sides. The entrance recess is set under a precast concrete lintol which spans into the front elevation and above the window of the front room and is lined in colored encaustic tiles.

The house is constructed from a prefabricated timber frame, with internal ground floor and internal walls in concrete screed and dense concrete blockwork for additional thermal mass. Sunlight is brought into the house throughout the day by the roof lights on the south side, set above the dining area and stairs. The upper floor sits under a steeply pitched roof with exposed rafters. The pitch is taken from the nave of the cathedral; the standing seam roof reminiscent of the cathedral’s lead roof. This gives the modest bedrooms a sense of scale and character unusual in a suburban house.


The internal layout is designed for a degree of flexibility. Our clients wanted a house that could open up for large parties but have an acoustic separation between rooms when in daily family use. The materials are simple; dark stone floor, pale ash wall linings, with the upstairs carpeted. Curved details internally are a contrast to the angular external forms.


The building sits within the Central Ely conservation area, which extends from the medieval high street to include the streets that lead into the town from surrounding villages. These are a mix of Victorian, Edwardian and later houses, with a mix of individual houses and terraces. Barton Road has a variety of houses. Our proposal- a gable-fronted house that sits between the houses adjacent- was recommended for refusal by the Conservation Officer and the planning authority, but approved 9 votes to 1 at committee.

The proposed narrow frontage to the house gives an opportunity for making a refined elevation with a vertical emphasis. The design incorporates a roof with a slightly steeper pitch than is usual, which subtly emphasizes the vertical elevation. The materiality and detailing of the proposed building take cues from the verticality and fluting of the cathedral facades, and the vertical stonework of the interior. The facade of the house employs a serrated brickwork facade, with recessed windows behind reconstituted stone surrounds.

The overall quality is intended to be a subtle variation of traditional brick domestic architecture, drawing explicitly on local buildings to produce a facade of exceptional quality.


The house has been designed with a range of sustainable features. Primarily the house is designed with large windows facing south to ensure good solar gain, which is absorbed by the black stone floor within. Internal blockwork walls on the ground floor also aid the thermal stability of the house in summer and winter. To avoid overheating, solar shading is positioned above the large glazed areas to the garden. A mechanical heat recovery ventilation (MVHR) system ensures good year-round ventilation with negligible heat loss. The building is built in brickwork with lime mortar, reducing CO2 emissions in the manufacture, and allowing for the re-use of the bricks at a future date.

Architecture by Mole Architects

Photos by Matthew Smith