Below: versions of the design as they developed, from simple massing sketches to detailed, shaded models that explored and tested the qualities of the proposal, inside and out, with the client, as the scheme progressed to a planning application.

Eco House with a Sea View

Devon, England

This house was designed in early 2018, and has benefitted from a 3D, virtual reality, VR testing and feedback process. It has been through in excess of 15 versions, with variations big and small.

The client brief, in terms of style, was minimal. We were to approach the site with a free rein, which was a delight.

 

However, some site conditions were obvious, so strong, they had to be responded to. Foremost: the outstanding view up the Exe estuary and east to Dorset's Jurassic Coast. More prosaically the orientation, which, when coupled with the surrounding urban grain, set the front and rear firmly on the east-west axis, presenting a slight challenge in dealing with the Sun-path.

 

For the former, we took a cue from trees around the site, which frame sections of view of the coast and sea, rather than vistas. Our response was to continue with this radial, interrupted, hit-and-miss experience of view. and distance. A rationale of spaces with radiating axes, punctuated by screens and posts, to alter views as one moves through the house, presenting and re-presenting the distant landscape.

 

The latter issue required modelling of solar paths, and resultant shadow and solar gains, which is of course fundamental to all architectural design, and we would do as part of our design process in any case. Openings in the sunlit, south face of the house, (a side elevation) were used as light-casting devices, rather than windows with views. This protected privacy from neighbours to the south, dealt with solar gain overload, and allowed us to cut Tadao Ando -esque apertures in wall and roof. This "light-slice" is aligned with the circulation route across the house, creating an eye-catcher from the front hall, and throwing light into the centre of the plan at certain times - an ancient trick if ever there was one. 

Our client was very clear in one respect: sustainability and renewable energy had to be incorporated from inception (as they should be in all buildings). A super-insulated, sealed envelope, heat recovery systems, high thermal mass internally, timber construction, and a roof crammed with PV and direct solar panels are just some of the ways this design approaches sustainability in the construction, life, and life-cycle of the building.

The front and rear elevations of the house tell us about their function: The duality of privacy and welcome expressed to the front, openness to light and landscape to the rear. The directional pull of each elevation guided our approach to form: volumes enclosing sleep, food, work and leisure jostle under one roof, squeezing past each other. Maintaining their visual separation, and articulating movement in the composition is key to elevational treatment. The entrance speaks of reaching out, with a stair to the landing platform, striking forward into the garden. At the north end of the house, the bedroom block is sombre, stone built, quiet. To the south, construction is lighter, more open. As in much of our work, organisational principles, applied axially, (e.g. heavy to light, public to private), or in stages across a plan, bring a sensibility and meaning to a general arrangement. 

 

Below: 3D model of the current iteration of the scheme, submitted for a full planning application.

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© 2019 Ivan Jordan