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First look

Alison Brooks Architects completes house tailored around art collection

  • 3 Comments

The house in Gloucestershire consists of a restored late-Georgian farmhouse, converted to a gallery and office, with a new wing, walled gardens and pool gallery

The completed house sits above the Wye Valley at the highest point of Gloucestershire in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The result of a ten-year project, the heart of the brief was designing a home around a collection of art, which primarily consists of Indian and African Tribal Art.

Alison Brooks describes it as a project for ‘a gallery with people living in it’, with the collection of artworks designed to animate the spaces, occupying plinths, ramps, niches and staircases.

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 02

The restored Windward Farmhouse is faced, where it meets the new wing, in mirror-polished steel cladding, dissolving the mass of the original building’s stone walls with reflections of the garden. The new two-storey West Wing is set back, low-lying and partially embedded in the hillside, intended to defer to the 18th century farmhouse. Its dark tones and cladding pattern were inspired, according to the architect, by the nearby Forest of Dean, while its volume has been designed to interlock with the existing stone building, creating courtyard spaces between high garden walls sheltered from the wind.

Internally, the righthand side of the farmhouse has been opened to create a triple height gallery, which contains a walnut-panelled mezzanine and wood-burning fireplace.

Surrounding the house are 8.5 hectares of land, in which a landscape strategy has seen the ongoing repair and renewal of 2.5km of hedges with pollen-rich species and the planting of 2,500 trees.

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 16

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 16

Architects view 

Serving as the owner’s primary living space, the West Wing is a variation of the atrium house typology and a nine-square structural grid, undulating in three dimensions to echo the topography of adjacent meadows. A deep first floor roof terrace takes in the spectacular view to the south; the double height living room overlooks a sloped pool of grasses. It’s gently sloping green roofs are planted with native species of wildflowers.

Inside, the West Wing is filled with light, open to the landscape and adapted to the needs of later life. Its sequence of double height spaces offers a variety of light conditions and spatial qualities to accommodate sculptures, masks, shields, temple doors and paintings collected over four decades.

The West Wing’s pigmented concrete floor was conceived as a moulded terrain upon which discreet objects rest: stone grotto, timber-clad service ‘pod’, steel staircase, looped plinths. Living, dining and cooking areas flow into each other and onto exterior terraces. The plan revolves around the concrete and marble kitchen island reflecting the owners’ dedication to entertaining and cooking for friends and family. Washed with light from above, this vantage point enjoys both visual connection to the first-floor gallery and panoramic views to the four cardinal directions. Gardens, seasons and weather stage a continuously changing scenography.

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 22

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 22

Source: Paul Riddle

The main ‘Stair for 100 Objects’ is intended as an installation in itself. Each tread is a 6mm thick ‘loop’ horizontally cantilevered from the stair’s central spine, a vertical steel grillage with 100 cells to display the owner’s treasured small works. Moving upward into light, the stair leads to a first floor gallery, bedrooms, study and a roof terrace. Every space offers perspectives both outward and inward, through rooms and across gardens.

The Pool Gallery is the culmination of the journey. Approached via a garden path, it is a stone-walled courtyard open to the sky. One wall has been ‘thickened’ to become a building containing changing facilities, guest accommodation, display space and storage. A quiet retreat for art, guests, and grandchildren, the pool gallery celebrates local traditions of field stone masonry and precision carpentry.

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 27

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 27

Source: Paul Riddle

The sustainability strategy for Windward House was based on reducing energy consumption, excellent thermal envelope and avoiding the use of solid fuel heaters. Therefore, the house does not consume any energy from solid fuels: Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP), Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP)s and Solar Thermal Panels provide the heating and hot water requirements. Electricity consumption is reduced by solar photovoltaic panels.

The main house has a GSHP from Ecoforest, a model which was designed to contain the latest advances in efficiency and economy. Also, the restored farmhouse has solar thermal panels fitted to the roof. The West Wing is an extensive green roof reducing rainwater runoff, and has been planted with native wildflowers to support local biodiversity.

The pool pavilion is served for heating and hot water by an ASHP and a separate ASHP warms the swimming pool water. The swimming pool is black which provides 4ºC advantage over the conventional blue pool and the cover on the pool is designed to act as a solar thermal transmitter. In addition, there is a 4.5kWp solar PV system on the roof of the pool pavilion. Lastly, natural ventilation is provided to mitigate overheating.

Alison Brooks Architects

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 32

Aba windward ∏paulriddle 32

Source: Paul Riddle

Client’s view 

Working with Alison Brooks and her project architects has been exhilarating. It has been a tremendous learning process. Our first lesson was that modern houses are designed from the inside. For we who had always lived in Georgian or Victorian houses this was a novel idea.

David Clifford  

Aba windwardhouse drawings page 3

Aba windwardhouse drawings page 3

Source: Alison Brooks Architects

Ground floor plan

Project Data

Start on site 2011
Completion date 2019
Gross internal floor area 623m²
Site area 2.74 ha
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Alison Brooks Architects
Client David and Jenny Clifford
Structural engineer Akera Engineers
M&E consultant Peter Deer & Associates
QS Measur Construction Consultants
Garden Designer Stoney & Janson
Quantity Surveyor Measur Construction Consultants
Environmental Co-ordinator Helena Ronicle
West Wing and Windward House Gallery Contractor E G Carter & Co Ltd
Landscape & Pool House Contractor Barker & Barker
Landscape Contractor Trunkarb Tree Surgery
Joinery Smith & Choyce Ltd.
Glazing Fineline Aluminium
CAD software used Vectorworks, Rhino

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • Very beautiful, as we can expect from ABA. Its a shame that so few higher-end private homes disclose construction cost; workng on the fringes fo this sector (mainly with mid-level private homes, but in similar locations as this) it would be helpful to have more access to 'the going rate' for well conceived and well built residences.

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  • Matthew: in my long experience published project costs are usually so heavily manipulated that they cause the reader to doubt their own abilities as a professional. Creative accounting alert - beware impossible quality /cost ratios....

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  • The site is certainly very exposed, on top of a hill, but is nowhere near 'at the highest point in Gloucestershire' - someone's forgotten the Cotswolds.

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