A modern country house as an authentic response to the spirit of place
Architect and Project Manager – Douglas and King Architects
Planning Consultant – Treetops Planning
Structural Engineer – Conisbee
MMC Consultant – Better Delivery Solutions
Environmental and Sustainability Engineer –
Ecology and Natural World –
Detailed planning consent has been granted for the construction of a contemporary county house located in the open Devon landscape close to the Devon and Cornwall border, a few kilometers from the coastal town of Bude. The building is an exemplar of sustainable development, a building that captures the rural spirit of place and is respectful of the historic architectural timeline. The building marries a contextual response to the very latest in 21st Century sustainable construction systems.
To capture the spirit of place we must understand the full historic evolution of local buildings and environment. Throughout history it is the advancement of technology and local knowledge of construction systems along with the availability of construction materials that have defined how our built environment functions and what it looks like. As new technologies have evolved, our homes and workplaces, the way we live and the way we interact with each other have adapted to embrace innovation.
We are interested in authentic architecture. With any new building we work to capture the local architectural heritage and how we can align this to modern lifestyles and innovative construction systems. We do this partly through an analysis of immediate physical constraints and opportunities and partly through an investigation into the historic evolution of a place.
The design of the house is authentic to the traditional building forms of the area, historic barns and small agricultural buildings thereby reflecting a distinct and contemporary expression of local identity rather than a suburban townhouse pastiche.
The building is an exemplars of the possibilities presented by 21st century technology being zero carbon, timber-framed structures. Major components of the superstructure is factory assembled and delivered to site. These share a commonality that will enable the construction methods to be flexible, economic and sustainable.
An careful design was required that would enhance the natural setting and allow the local ecology to thrive. A number of redundant lightweight agricultural buildings on the site are to be replaced by the new building, one Cobb built barn, the home to a family of owls is to be retained. Overall the plot includes a number of fields all of which are bordered by Devon bank hedges. In this part of South West England there are are a number of initiatives to replace hedgerow trees that have been lost from the landscape, partly as a result of intensive farming practices in the 20th century and in part due to diseases such as Dutch Elm and Ash Die Back. We have been working with the Woodland Trust and a replanting programme has been agreed that will see 15 native and disease resistant trees planted.
Whilst redundant structures often offer an ideal habitat for local wildlife, retaining and reparing the Cobb barn and providing numerous new habitats are all part of the strategy to encourage a flourishing and healthy natural environment.
The proposed building is designed to work with the sloping terrain, there is a 15m fall across the site, 3m fall across the length of the proposed house.
Inspiration for the long format of the new dwelling is based on the traditional Devon longhouse, a typology prevalent in the historic landscape where ancient farmers would live with their families on the upper floor of the building and livestock would live within pens on the ground floor. In Devon the longhouses were often built with Cobb, a mixture of straw, lime and the clay dug from local fields. Many of these buildings still exist today, hundreds of years old, proving the robustness of the method.
An access track runs from the country lane to the former paddock, a track that will become the main access route to the new house.
The North South longhouse alignment has been broken into two elements separated by a flat roofed area that forms the entrance to the new house. The broken roofline minimises the impact of the roofline on the open landscape. The shortest elevation, the Northern gable end faces the landscape.
The Northern block is the bedroom area with 4 large bedrooms aligned with a mezzanine level family room under the pitched roof area above. The Northern block faces the garden and orchard to the East, the corridor is wider than normal so that it is not just a corridor or circulation route but also family room facing the garden.
The central circulation area under the flat roof contains a large lobby and cloak /boot room, something that is essential in a county home is an agricultural setting.
The Southern Living block is a double height space that is entered along a platform past the adjacent stair that passes the kitchen area into the dining room in the center of the room. The living / sitting area daces a large panoramic window providing clear views of the natural landscape.
The building has been designed to meet the highest standards of sustainability in use and in construction. Windows and rooflights are aligned to assist passive solar heating and cooling, smart ventilation technology opens the MVHR ducts and windows to help maintain a constant internal temperature throughout the year.
Whole life carbon profiling is written onto the DNA of the building fabric, leading to reuse specification choices, for example the building will be clad in profiled metal (100% recyclable). High levels of thermal insulation are allowed for meaning that the demand on a background heating system will be very low, the building is designed and aligned so that is does not require costly heating and cooling to function.