Modern day architects still inspired from the Medieval ‘H’ shaped hall house.

Most architects strive for the perfect floor plan.  The H-shaped plan, in the vernacular hall house or often called the double-ended hall house, is particularly interesting.  The roots of this lay out can be traced back to the medieval era of Northern Europe.

In these homes the hall was a large gathering space with a central hearth used for both heat and food preparation; sleeping quarters and functional storage were on the opposite ends. Wings perpendicular to either end of the hall formed the “H” and greatly increased its utility. The wings were private retreats from the public hall and its smoke and soot. These wings sometimes even functioned as entirely separate living quarters. What’s interesting is that the needs that gave rise to these design decisions still persist today. Let’s look at the benefits of an H-shaped layout.

Modern Exterior by Stanev Potts Architects

Clear Separation of Public and Private Spaces

One of the most basic design priorities of any architect, designer or homeowner is the need for separation of public and private functions in a plan. In fact it was the genesis for the medieval variant over 500 years ago. An H-shaped plan naturally accomplishes this quite well.

Private wings sit at either end of a central hall, which is seen here rendered in glass. The central hall typically is used for gathering or circulation – the heart of the home. Here it’s used for both.

Modern Living Room by Stanev Potts Architects

Meanwhile, the top hallway is used for circulation. The ability to have circuitous paths — across a sky bridge for example — in a floor plan not only provides spatial interest, but also enhances the feeling of privacy and separation.

Both levels of the hall physically link and unite the private wings, which themselves can be layered from public to private as well, depending on their location on the site and within the home. Meanwhile, the most private spaces, the bedrooms, are on the upper levels. Even the staircase follows this layering principle; it’s positioned close to the more public outdoor courtyard, leaving the private wood views for the bedrooms.


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