The practice was commissioned by the owners of Gotwick Wood Farm to design a new environmentally conscious house set within a countryside plot of over 34 hectares. The site already benefited from planning permission for a new dwelling but the client wanted to push the boundaries of the design to create a modernist and contemporary home that captured the views of the site and made the best use of the surrounding landscape.
The dwelling layout is divided into three parts: 1) a single-storey, L-shaped wing comprising the entrance hall, study and main living areas; 2) a two-storey wing with part basement comprising a bar, library and snug room suite, a 12 x 3m swimming pool in a double-height hall with gym, sauna and facilities and two bedrooms with ensuite on ground floor; a master bedroom suite plus four other bedrooms with ensuite at first floor; and in the basement, a multi-purpose activity room, wine cellar, laundry and plant rooms; and 3) the single-storey double garage block that encloses the courtyard along its south -east side.
The home office annexe is a stand-alone building parallel with, but offset from, the entrance wing of the main house, with a square 9 x 9m footprint comprising an open-plan workspace, mezzanine and WC/ shower room.
The aesthetics of the building are a product of the design development process between client and architect. The massing and aesthetics reflect the intended lifestyle for the house, with open plan living on a single level that will blur between inside and outside. The double-height pool space creates a dramatic focus for the upper floor, avoiding hotel-style corridors serving the bedrooms at this level.
The arrangement and orientation of the shallow-pitched roofs will allow rainwater to be harvested for irrigation in the courtyard garden. The upper south-facing roof of the two-storey wing provides a discreet platform for a PV array that forms part of the building’s energy supply strategy.
The palette of materials has been selected for their appropriateness for the natural setting: larch cladding is amongst the most eco-friendly of materials, with strong durability and little embodied carbon impact. Zinc is amongst the lowest impact roofing metals and the overhang eaves design protects the larch cladding from the worst of the weather. Windows will have an aluminium outer face for durability, paired with a timber composite internally.
Fenestration reflects the hierarchy of the spaces they serve: smaller windows punctuate ancillary rooms; individual windows, both portrait and landscape formats, light smaller rooms such as en-suites or provide high level cross ventilation; assemblies of multiple windows, either floor-to-ceiling as a ‘Juliette’ balcony group or with waist-high cills, indicate bedrooms or special rooms such as the snug room or study; and finally large floor-to-ceiling glazed screens take advantage of the setting to provide an intimate connection in with the surrounding woodland for the principle activity spaces i.e. dining, living, gym, pool and the like. The wraparound window to the study is intended to provide ‘natural surveillance’ over the entrance driveway.
The underlying ethos of this project has been to create an extremely low energy building that offers high levels of occupant comfort. In energy terms, our approach has followed the classic hierarchy of reducing demand, using energy efficiently and then considering on-site generation.
EAST GRINSTEAD | WEST SUSSEX