George Bernard Shaw tracks the sun
We’ve had such great feedback on our profile of Girasole the rotating house in the ACT. So we thought we’d show you a humbler version of a building inspired by the same vision. For more information about George Bernard Shaw’s revolving studio and other amazing tiny houses and studios, check out A Little House of My Own: 47 Grand Designs for 47 Tiny Houses.
This sun-tracking writing studio was the brain child of none other than writer George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), author of Pygmalion among other classics. He wrote in this rotating shed during the last 20 years of his life.
Located on his property in St Albans, Hertfordshire, it’s a simple 2.5m x 2.5m x 2.5m shed with a door, three windows and a sloping roof.
In fact, it’s not overly impressive from the outside – more like a child’s drawing and certainly not a shining example of the power of passive design. Hidden underneath this little writing studio is a manually operated rotating floor base. The mechanism is simply constructed – a 2.5cm diameter pipe is embedded into concrete and a 22mm diameter steel rod is slipped into it (see the plans below). Of the three windows, two were fixed and one could be opened.
The benefits of designing to capture the sun
- It allowed George to write in his hut without having to use an artificial light source. He would just get up (which was a good and healthy thing to do anyway) and give the hut a little turn towards the light.
- It limited the windows needed for direct light to enter the space. This is important in cold weather. More glass in the cold months made for a cooler working space. Limiting windows to one side of the shed (with only one other window opposite the door) made it possible to work in the hut even in cooler months.
- The direct sunlight entering the hut created passive solar heating within. Limiting the windows to the one side facing the sun also reduced the amount of heat loss.
- Last but not least, George was able to pivot the hut in the summer to create a shaded space (passive shading) whenever he desired to do so. Opening the only operable window opposite the open door created natural ventilation.
Plans of the rotating studio
Bernard Shaw’s Rotating House Is an Aid to Health
“A REVOLVING turntable is one of the factors in the splendid health of George Bernard Shaw, famous English author. At the age of 72, he is in the prime of physical condition and attributes it partially to his appreciation of sunlight. Mr. Shaw has a plan to keep the sun shining on him constantly while he works. He has constructed a small hut on his grounds that is built on a turntable. When the morning sun shifts, he merely places his shoulder against the side of the hut and gives it a push so that the warming beams fall through bis window at the correct angle.
Mr. Shaw’s plan to keep the sun shining on him is a simple health measure, and not a wanton eccentricity.
The house is not a new idea. Several years ago such a building was constructed in France. It was built with glass walls and was equipped with a motor that moved it at the touch of an electric button. The original model cost $50,000. Mr. Shaw’s cost much less than $1,000.
The author has spent most of his life out of doors, but when he moved to London he didn’t get as much sun as he thought he needed. Hence the hut”