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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
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.

The Wilderness in Suffolk, England by Paul+O Architects

December 7th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Paul+O Architects

The Wilderness is a 750 sq m new-build country house in the Suffolk countryside designed by London-based Paul+O Architects.

The design draws on a European architectural language and is one of the few built examples of houses granted planning permission under PPG7 clause 3.21, a planning policy guidance note passed by MP John Gummer in 1997 in the UK to permit planning consent for isolated new houses in the countryside if they “are truly outstanding in terms of Architecture and landscape design and would significantly enhance its immediate setting and wider surroundings”.

Night View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

  • Architect: Paul+O Architects
  • Name of Project: The Wilderness
  • Location: Westleton, Saxmundham, Suffolk, England
  • Gross internal area: 750 sq m (900 sq m including terraces and swimming pool)
  • Project Architects: Paulo Marto + Paul Acland
  • Photo credits: © Fernando Guerra

Night View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

  • Structural Engineer: Whitby Bird & Partners (now Ramboll)
  • Services Engineer: Paul+O Architects
  • Contractor: M. S. Oakes
  • Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon
  • Landscape Architect: Paul+O Architects
  • Environmental Consultant: Susan Deakin Ecology

Night View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

Following completion of the house former MP John Gummer praised the project for its architectural merit and sensitivity to the site, adding that it was precisely the kind of country house he had in mind when he introduced the PPG7 exception clause. The house has also won support from CABE (Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment), the Suffolk Preservation Society and the Suffolk Society of Architects.

Side View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

The country house tradition is a significant part of England’s heritage, but with very few examples built post war. The Wilderness sets a precedent for the new English country house in the 21st Century. Unlike its predecessors, which follow the tradition of the house dominating the landscape, the Wilderness sits modestly in a clearing of a wood, its sculptural asymmetrical form bringing a restrained grandeur to the picturesque setting.

Exterior View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

The house combines traditional materials with modern detailing and construction methods. The asymmetrical volumetric massing with large cantilevers is achieved with a steel structure. Traditional and local materials, including oak and flint, and a warm grey render are used to harmonise the house with its woodland setting.

Exterior View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

The existing grid of the site, formed by rides and hedgerows, generated a cruciform plan which exploits aspect and shelter and opens up all elevations to the surrounding landscape. The ground floor elevations of the house are largely transparent, dissolving the boundary between inside and out and making one feel surrounded by the landscape. The first floor overhang is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional Suffolk medieval timber-framed house with its projected upper storeys.

Exterior View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

Inside the interiors are arranged as a series of generous but intimate spaces for the client to enjoy alone or in the company of guests.

A double height entrance hall with staircase and gallery creates a grand arrival point. The arrangement of spaces is in the tradition of the later 19th Century revivalist country houses which in turn reinterprets the medieval house. and where the vertical spaces act as a counterpoint to the long horizontal vistas which run the length of the house.

Exterior View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

The hall is screened from the living room by a spine wall, painted dark olive, which bisects the house, continuing the line of an existing hedgerow outside. To the left (East) is the Studio/Office and the Library/Study. To the west is the double height Kitchen/Dining, the service areas and further along the swimming pool. The upper floor accommodates 6 bedrooms. All south facing bedrooms have external terraces.

The house integrates modern environmental strategies such as rainwater harvesting, grey-water recycling and solar panels. The approach to the landscaping has been to preserve and enhance the existing soft and untamed qualities of the existing woodland so as to provide a contrast with the precise architecture of the house. The garden has been enriched with trees, shrubs and perennials native to the area and contemporary sculptures and water features have been integrated into the woodland setting.


Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra

Paul+O Architects is an award-winning London-based architectural practice renowned for contemporary architecture of high quality craftsmanship and rigour, which is sympathetic to its context. The practice was founded in 2002 by Paulo Marto and Paul Acland, who both hail from the Antipodes (Southern Africa and New Zealand respectively).

Designing in a contemporary idiom using traditional materials, projects are distinguished by a rigorous approach and attention to detail, which produces an architecture of uncompromised quality. The practice offers a holistic architectural service with expertise extending to include landscape design, interiors and the design of bespoke furniture and fittings to ensure the delivery of buildings and places with design integrity, both inside and out.

Living hall (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

Recent projects include The Wilderness, a universally-acclaimed modern country house, set in 50 acres of woodland in Suffolk; House on Bassett Road, the radical remodeling of a Georgian townhouse; and Indoor Pool, a dramatic contemporary brick pool house in the grounds of a Victorian country house in Buckinghamshire. The success of these projects led to the practice being shortlisted for the Building Design Architect of the Year Awards in 2009 in the category of single dwelling. Current projects include a new-build house in Hampstead and a new-build house in Kensington.


Bedroom (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

Swimming pool (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

Exterior View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

Interior View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

Interior View (Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra)

Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra

Images Courtesy Fernando Guerra

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Category: House

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