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Seafield House, Isle of Man, by Gort Scott Architects

[5 houses by 5 practices] This week the AJ features five houses: three in England, one on the Isle of Man, another in Ireland, each marked by a unique materiality, whether in stone, roughcast, timber or mirrored metal

S eafield House sits within a modest, privately owned estate on the rocky Scarlett peninsula, just south of the historic settlement of Castletown.

Gort Scott produced a strategic plan for these grounds in 2008. The house and its garage represent the first of three proposed new buildings that engage with the current collection of buildings and gardens. A new pool house, also designed by Gort Scott, is currently under construction.

The house is built from local Castletown stone. The cottage covers two floors and contains two separate apartments. Emerging from the perimeter wall, the building’s cuboid form tapers into an asymmetric Welsh slate pitched roof that leans into the winds coming off the Irish Sea. The building stands at the highest point of the site and the roof profile was considered from a number of vantage points to create a strong figure in the landscape.

The client requested two discrete apartments, one for guests and another for an au pair; this required the cottage to have differing relationships to the main house and to the estate as a whole. The upper floor guest apartment residents would spend time at the estate’s main house, so the design provides an entrance through a walled garden to the rear of the building, connected directly to the main house along a stone path. A drive leading into the estate arrives at the door of the ground floor au pair apartment, allowing a degree of separation from both the main house and upper guest apartment. Locating the stairs to the guest apartment in the estate’s walled garden means the house’s modest garden and parking area can be used exclusively and privately by the ground floor residents.

Inside, both apartments have a simple, open-plan layout of living and kitchen areas leading onto two double bedrooms and a bathroom. The upper apartment is entered using the external staircase, leading into the kitchen, then into a double-height living and dining area. This space is naturally lit by a skylight and by a floor-to-ceiling window, which opens onto a generous sea-facing balcony. The ground floor apartment is entered through the living and kitchen areas, which have aspects across surrounding fields, the estate grounds and towards the sea. The glazed doors leading onto a patio are sheltered by the upper apartment’s balcony.

The thick external walls of the house have a blockwork cavity wall construction with an outer face of 250mm-thick Castletown stone. The stone was quarried from Pooil Vaaish, a few miles from the site. These walls support a beam and block floor as well as a timber and steel roof structure. The dark colour and roughness of the traditionally laid stonework are contrasted by the crisp precast concrete window and door surrounds that emphasise the composition of the windows on the four sides of the building. 

There are essentially three parts to the form of the building: the main body of the house, which is abutted by a table-like terrace to the front and an external stair to the rear.

The terrace and stair, conceived as large pieces of external furniture, are made of slender, exposed in-situ concrete and stainless steel balustrades. These elements are structurally independent of the estate’s main house, but are ‘pressed’ flush into the house’s external stonework envelope. The in situ concrete supports appear as ‘veins’ on the surface of the stone, the tone and finish of which was chosen to marry with the precast window surrounds. The detail of this relationship is repeated on the garage building as a structural windbreak.

Jay Gort, co-founder, Gort Scott Architects

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