Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
New Mission Hall House in Sussex, UK by Adam Richards Architects Ltd.
November 23rd, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Adam Richards Architects Ltd.
The site for this house is at a prominent bend in the road, where an old drover’s track meets a large oak tree marking the boundary of this small rural village. The existing building was an introverted former Baptist’s chapel suffering from subsidence. We realized that in replacing it we must design a house that took full advantage of the site’s long views across farmland to the west, whilst doing justice to its position and registering the memory of the chapel – still remembered with fondness by the villagers.
The building’s unusual composition resulted from a considered response to its local and historic context. In plan, the building is broken down into two slim, offset blocks, in keeping with the scale of the neighbouring cottage. The block facing the road has an apsidal form; a ‘memory’ of the demolished chapel, & shields the set-back rear block from view. This approach creates a dramatic skyline with the house’s tall brick chimney appearing to float between the two distinct halves of the house.
The two storeys of the house are distinguished on the outside by the white brick plinth of the ground floor, and the pale render and tile hung walls of the upper floor, echoing local vernacular construction. This distinction between the floors is carried through internally with the expansive living space of the first floor contrasting with the private sleeping quarters of the ground floor. The ground floor is dense with detail and materials, including oak, black stone & a white brick vault.
The complex plan adds to the intrigue, creating a comfortable and private series of spaces that feel as if they are carved from the weighty brick plinth. The cave-like atmosphere heightens the contrast with the light, airy living space of the piano nobile above. This lofty space fills the entire volume of the first floor, under an undulating roofscape, and enjoys spectacular views across the countryside through 4m high windows, set between a series of columns. A low central section creates an intimate area around an open fireplace, with two free-standing walnut cabinets defining the kitchen and study areas.
The house & garden were designed as a single entity, carefully integrating the project into its site. A long brick-edged strip of planting extends from the house continuing along the central axis. This is planted with lavender, which follows the underground routes of the rainwater harvesting and heat pump: a visual indicator of the sustainable technologies that have been integral to the design.
This house engages with its wider landscape and fully utilises its unique setting, giving the clients a dramatic and comfortable home and continuing the variety, scale and material richness of the village.
Client’s Brief: The clients’ converted former Baptist chapel in Plaistow, a small rural village in West Sussex, had ceased to be viable due to subsidence. They decided to demolish it & build a new, two storey, 3 bedroom house on the site, which would be sustainable, take better advantage of the site, incorporate an office, & allow them to entertain up to 10 dinner guests.
Planning Constraints: Plaistow is a rural village with a Conservation Area at its heart. The Sussex vernacular predominates. The new house occupies a prominent position at one of the entrances to the village. The tight site has a road bordering its eastern side; to the west are open fields. Chichester District Council engaged in a constructive dialogue with the architects, culminating in the proposals being approved by the planning committee.
Materials: Externally, the house makes use of a white brick for the ground floor, & for the first floor a mixture of self-coloured render (made using recycled glass), & tile hanging, re-using the roof tiles from the demolished building. It has a lead roof. Windows & doors are timber, external railings are galvanised steel, & paving consists of granite sets & blue-black limestone. Internally the ground floor has stone floors & walls, oak panelling & a vaulted ceiling lined with white brick. The first floor is predominantly whitepainted plastered masonry, with oak floors & walnut built-in furniture.
Method of Construction: To counter any further subsidence the house is built off a piled deck, & uses masonry cavity wall construction. A beam & block floor spans the first floor, with an in-situ slab tying together the two halves of the building. The roof is steel & timber-framed.
Sustainability: The house uses a ground-source heat-pump for heating & cooling; recycles rainwater; & is designed using passive solar techniques to make use of thermal mass, with south-facing windows set in deep reveals to limit solar gain in summer & increase it in winter.
Summary of Timetable, Programme & Budget: Architects were appointed in May 2008; planning was granted in May 2009. Construction started in September 2009, & completion was in October 2010. The budget is confidential.
Contact Adam Richards Architects Ltd.