New Eco House, Berkshire
This unique home was designed on a beautifully wooded site but one which came with significant challenges. The required house was to be 3-4 times larger than the existing small bungalow currently occupying the site, the site was in an area of outstanding natural beauty and with a rich ecology supporting some endangered species. The client was very keen to have a cutting edge architect designed contemporary home and gave a significantly free reign for us to really flex our design muscles.
The primary constraint on the design was to do with planning – to ensure that, from public view, the building was no more prominent in the landscape than the existing bungalow. This was achieved by utilising the fall on the land to full effect. Whilst the house is of generous proportions the part visible to a passer-by is kept similar in bulk and height to the original building. The rest of the house is cut into the land which gave exciting design opportunities in terms of playing with levels.
The overall shape and aspects of the building were initially a contextual and emotional response to the site. The whole site is surrounded by beautiful woodlands and so the give the house a front, rear and two sides in a rectilinear way would be to have missed out on the beauty of the surrounding panorama.
The house is planned to give the visitor a series of breath-taking surprises as one walks from the front door right through to the bedroom wing. Once in the entrance hall the view, although open plan, is restricted but as you progress further in you suddenly become aware of being high up at the top of the building with a stunning view down over the large open plan living area and through the double height glazed walls to the woodlands beyond. This upper area forms the dining gallery and so creates a dramatic place to sit and dine and experience the full lofty height of the main space. To reach the main large living area you will descend a bespoke feature stairway from the gallery right down through the middle of this airy space to fully appreciate it’s shape and proportion.
The highest point of the living room is over 5m with the dining gallery looking over. Under the dining gallery but still open to the rest of the living space is a cosy library area with floor to ceiling shelving.
A study, accessed from the dining gallery is conceived as a little timber box balanced halfway in and halfway out of one of the large glazed screens and is perceived as such both from the inside of the living space and outside and the front of the house. It has a large window to take in the view whilst working as well an internal window overlooking the main living area to keep an eye on other occupants!
Leading from the living area and down a step is the bedroom wing. The bedrooms are cut into the ground allowing a decked seating area and lawns above accessed from the kitchen. The bedrooms themselves are accessed via a corridor on one side and each bedroom opens onto the creatively landscaped areas with large panels of floor to ceiling glazing for maximum light and views.
The house is constructed to the highest levels of sustainability achieving a Code 5 level in the Code for Sustainable Homes. The only reason it did not achieve the maximum of 6 is due to the location of the site being a little too far from a town and hence little access to public transport.