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FIRST LOOK

Reimagining the traditional oast: ACME’s rural home in Kent

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The £890,000 project is a 21st-century version of the traditional oast house, a building type that was designed to dry hops in the 18th century

The iconic building form usually consists of a rectangular one or two-storey building with one or more circular kilns in which the hops were spread out to be dried. Ranging from 3.6 to 5.5m in diameter, these were identifiable by their conical roofs. 

ACME’s project, Bumpers Oast, sits within rural Kent and is a contemporary version of the local vernacular. Four circular towers are clad in shingles and sit slightly apart from one another. They are all connected by a triple-height central space.

The London-based practice won planning for the project in August 2014. 

077 oast house acme 10 jim stephenson

Breaking trend with oast houses’ traditional brick construction, the building’s frame is assembled from heavily insulated thick timber modules which are topped by cones manufactured offsite and then craned into position. Kent-style tiles have been used to create the home’s shingled exterior skin – coloured in different tones to create a gradient going from dark red at the base, to light orange at the roof’s top. The tiles were produced locally and each of the 41,000 tiles had to be individually cut to cover the curved façades.

Inside, the ’roundels’ are clad in plywood, creating a continuous surface. Curved furniture has been built into the rooms where possible to efficiently use the space. The floor is polished concrete, while the kitchen counters are formed out of microcement to complement this.

Each first-level bedroom space is split-level, creating adaptable space on the lower level that can be turned into a study. All of the private conical sleeping spaces are connected to the communal lower floor via separate helical stairs with thin balustrades of gently curving plywood. The bathrooms consist of open-plan niches allowing for lots of inbuilt storage.

All window openings have reveals formed by the walls folding into them, increasing light refraction coming into the rooms.

077 oast house acme 43 jim stephenson

Architect’s view

Bumpers Oast has allowed the practice to return to its roots, exploring new residential typologies as we did with our project at Hunsett Mill. The form of this building is radically different to its predecessor and was only made possible thanks to a visionary client and an exhaustive research project into the local vernacular. This house can be both contemporary and proud of its Kent identity.

Friedrich Ludewig, director, ACME

077 bumpers hall acme site plan

Site plan

Project data 

Start on site 2012
Completion 2019
Gross internal floor area 230m²
Form of contract Traditional
Construction cost £890,000
Architect ACME
Client Private
Structural engineer AKT
M&E consultant Furness Green Partnership
Planning consultant Barton Willmore 
Environmental consultant Etude
Building control Wilkinson Construction Consultants
Main contractor Harry Barnes Construction
Annual dwelling emission rate 14.22kgCO2/m2

077 bumpers hall acme section aa

Section AA

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Readers' comments (2)

  • The effort and skill put into this repro fantasy might surely have been better applied to the rescue of some genuine derelict oast houses - or is domestic conversion so popular that the supply of the real thing has dried up?

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  • ps - never heard of clay tiles referred to as shingles - always thought that the latter were either wood or metal. Perhaps it's a Kentish thing.

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