Meadowview is situated on the edge of a rural village in Bedfordshire and was designed as a family home for a retired couple. The plot, enclosed by hedgerows and mature trees, borders onto an expanse of arable fields. The site has been divided into different areas by the house and hard landscaping, setting up an interplay between the building, gardens and distant landscape.
The abstract nature of the surrounding agricultural landscape and vernacular buildings has informed the design, resulting in a house with a simple linear form with a horizontal emphasis. Small differences in height make a big difference to what you can see in a flat landscape so three datums were struck across the site expressed in bands of slate, white render and timber cladding to mark the viewing platforms.
On the ground floor, areas of glazing set up close, sensual relationships with the garden whilst the first floor offers a more detached experience of the landscape with long views framed like pictures on the wall.
The sweet chestnut clad box overhangs the ground floor so that from across the fields it looks like it is floating over the hedgerows. The deep recessed balcony acts like a lens hood, framing sunsets over the countryside. The concept of a hovering building is continued into the details of the ash tread stair that is cantilevered off the wall in the entrance hall. The lightness of the timber box is juxtaposed with the heavy ironstone gabion wall that encloses the private walled garden.
A meandering route through the house creates a sequence of gradually more private internal and external spaces. The entrance hall offers visitors views straight through the house to the pavilion in the back garden whilst screening off the living areas. As you progress though the ground floor, the space expands into a double height living room that is overlooked by the first floor study. From the living room, you can gain access to the courtyard garden where more delicate plants can grow protected from the wind and cold. To the rear of the house, swathes of long grasses and meadow flowers are animated by the breeze giving the terrace a wharf-like feel. An area of the garden is given over to food production in raised beds, providing all of the household’s fruit and veg over the summer months.
The house is well insulated, fitted with photovoltaic panles and also incorporates mechanical ventilation with heat recovery to reduce heat losses whilst a rainwater harvesting tank supplies water to the WC’s and the garden irrigation system.
The brief was for a sustainable 4 bedroom home for a retired couple which would be used for entertaining and accommodating visiting family and friends.
Open plan kitchen, dining and living area with the garden treated as an extension of the living area.
Plentiful natural light to all habitable rooms and bathrooms.
Study to be linked to the main living area but screened off to keep the clutter out of view.
Take advantage of views and connect to the garden and more distant landscape.
High levels of insulation
Make use of passive solar heat gain and incorporate an overhanging roof to control gains in the summer
Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery
Sustainably sourced English sweet chestnut cladding
The site had an existing bungalow on the site which restricted the height and footprint of the replacement dwelling. Planning policy preferred houses in rural villages to have simple long, thin rectangular plans with a stepped silhouette to reflect the local vernacular building types.
The local planning authority was initially sceptical that a contemporary house would be acceptable on the site but through the pre-planning process we convinced them that it would be a beneficial addition to the village. The building form is based on abstractions of the local vernacular agricultural buildings and fitted in with the local design codes. The planning officers supported the application, no objections were received from the neighbours and the planning committee unanimously voted in favour of the project.
The site lies on the edge of a ribbon development village in rural Bedfordshire and is surrounded by mature trees, hedgerows and arable fields. A sweet chestnut clad box is cantilevered off a solid masonry and glass plinth, from across the fields, it looks like it is floating over the hedgerows. The different levels, walls and vegetation are used to vary the views. The site is divided up into a patchwork of different landscapes to create a transition between the domestic and agricultural environments. A private walled garden centred on a mature cherry tree is positioned on the more public side to the east. To the west, a raised terrace area hovers over a field of long grasses and meadow flowers.
Meadowview is a country house that is sensitive to its rural setting and incorporates many sustainable features. The route through the house gives a sequence of gradually more private spaces, both internal and external, and frames views to the rear garden, courtyard garden and to the agricultural landscape beyond. The house and garden are conceived of as an extension of the landscape rather than an object placed in it. The strata of external materials: slate, render and timber mark three different datums from which to view the gardens and landscape.
Materials and Method of Construction
The house has a steel frame structure in order to engineer the cantilevers, the first floor acts as a 3m deep truss to keep the floor depths to a minimum. The white render areas are constructed of blockwork with a Sto insulated render system to give the living areas thermal mass. The timber clad first floor element has softwood timber infill panels and is clad in untreated sustainably sourced sweet chestnut. The external cladding is carried through to the interior in the double height space over the living room. The ground floor has a slate finish with UFH in the screed, the cantilevered stairs and floor to the upper storey are finished in Olive ash. Structural glass is used as balustrading to the stair and balcony. Windows have laminated pine frames with PPC aluminium opening sashes.
Orientation and Sunlight
The house is organised with the main living spaces to the south end of the building and the garage to the north. The habitable rooms benefit from plentiful natural light and solar gains from the midday and afternoon sun in winter. Excessive solar gain in summer is controlled by the overhang of the first floor timber clad element. This works in parallel with the thermal mass heat stores in the thick blockwork walls and insulated screed floor. The upper floor has timber stud infill walls with less thermal mass to give a quicker cooling time for sleeping on hot summer nights.
The plan has a slim cross section to allow natural cross ventilation in the summer. When the house is being heated, a whole house mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery is in operation, substantially reducing heat losses due to ventilation.
The house has underfloor heating throughout which can be run off lower water temperatures than a traditional radiator system. A wood burning fireplace in the living room can be used to heat the house as the ventilation system will redistribute the warm air into the bedrooms.
The upper storey is clad in sustainably sourced, untreated English sweet chestnut boards, the infill panels, walls and roof and internal walls are constructed from softwood. All of the building elements are insulated to high levels. Natural slate and timber flooring with a white oil finish are used on the ground and first floors respectively.
Rainwater is stored in an underground tank and is used in the washing machine, garden and to flush the toilets.
Landscaping (to be completed in the next phase of works by the garden designer)
The house is surrounded by deciduous trees which give shade in summer and let sunlight through to the house in winter. The courtyard garden has a wild cherry tree in its centre surrounded by a gabion wall filled with rough limestone. This will store the air cooled by transpiration in the tree’s canopy during the summer and act as a heat store in spring and autumn with the wall giving shelter from the wind allowing the garden to be used for more months of the year. The stone filled gabion wall has cavities that create habitat for wildlife and links up with the hedgerow eco-systems.
Meadowview is designed to be adaptable to the clients as they grow old and will also suit a young family, giving the building a long lifespan.
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