Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Home turf

  • Comment
aj building study With its latest contribution to Manor Farm in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire, architect Proctor Matthews has designed a 'modern' family house that integrates itself with the variety of other building styles already on site

Haddenham in Buckinghamshire is a picturepostcard village set around a village pond, complete with ducks. Within a quack-sound of this is Manor Farm. Passing through its gate into the farmyard, you feel that you have entered a small hamlet in its own right. There is a large tithe barn dated to 1504, oak-framed and board-clad. The original farmhouse, dating from the same period, is built of the warm yellow local stone. There is a timber-clad granary on stone staddles. Then there is the new work, all by Proctor Matthews.

A few years ago, the architect converted a smaller barn and adjoining outbuildings into a house for a couple with two grown-up daughters. One daughter and her family then took over the old farmhouse from her parents. The other daughter and her family - Caroline and David Hollick and daughters Lucy and Kate - have since moved into a new house by Proctor Matthews, the subject of this study.

This 'new' house has been occupied for close to three years; its coverage now is the choice of the client - David Hollick is a landscape designer and contractor who wanted to wait until he had had time to establish at least some of the landscape spaces.

Though masterplan is too grand a term, there has been some integration of the various buildings. The new house is surrounded by an array of rendered walls which pick up the colours of the local earth walling. They shape the entry to the site, tie the house to the converted barn and create a set of landscape rooms around the new house. The massing of Proctor Matthews' buildings makes less attempt to integrate old and new.

The older buildings - tithe barn, manor house, granary - are relatively large, simple volumes.With the barn conversion and new house, the architect busily breaks up and articulates every external surface, creating a smaller scale. This scaling is reflected, too, in the choice of materials. The restricted palette of the older buildings contrasts with the multiple walling, opening and roofing treatments for each of the new buildings.

The new house is a modern one, as is the barn conversion; the combined scheme was a source of 18 months of protracted negotiations with the planning authorities. There were early suggestions to the architect that 'Developer's Rural' would be an appropriate style, a sort of sub-Essex Design Guide look.

With the help of local architect and friend Peter Aldington (who set up the competitive interview procedure that Proctor Matthews won) in showing the scheme to local people and lobbying councillors, the planning committee eventually granted permission. This despite a recommendation of refusal by the officers - there were no letters of objection. Ironically, illustrations of the barn are now being used by the local authority to illustrate exemplary conversion.

It is not as if the new house is shouting Modernism at its neighbours. It is folded into the site among the other buildings, though open to the south across meadows.

Its principal materials are the same render as the landscape walls, plus tiled roofs, rough black Hemfir boarding echoing the granary and some large sliding external doors typical of agricultural buildings. But nor does it hide its modernity, for example, in the handling of the rendered surfaces, its grids, its structurally glazed conservatory and runs of square window framing, its transparency and framed views through the building.

From the courtyard and from the approach to the house framed views of the interior suggest an openness that belies what is a largely cellular plan.Much of this feeling continues inside, where the architect has made space to introduce height and light.

The interior architecture is calmer, less busy than the exterior. In plan the focus of the house is the courtyard and southerly views beyond. On the ground floor, the kitchen-diner's courtyard wall has deep niches inside and out that can hold plants.

Corridors then run either side of a storage wall past several cellular rooms to the living space. These corridors can be seen as winter and summer routes, the summer route doubling as a conservatory, with a structurally glazed roof using two laminated glass beams. This has only recently been installed - some two years were needed to find a competent contractor willing to take on this small job. The conservatory has as much a sense of corridor as a room - a rather long, narrow space. With the precious glazing uninterrupted by rooflights and shading kept away from the glass at horizontal roof tie level, it will be a testing space for plantlovers to use successfully.

Once through the open corridor/ conservatory the living room opens up dramatically as a light-filled space, windows on every side, open to the monopitch soffit.

Expressed triangular timber frames to the roof give a rare hint that between render and plaster lies a largely blockwork and timberframed building.

The upstairs corridor, too, is full of light.

On one side of this corridor, large windows look out over the courtyard. On the other side is a band of frameless opening lights beneath the flat corridor roof. This glazing band is similar to the band that makes the barn roof appear to float, though for the barn it is fixed glazing with a structural role.

Only part of the upstairs space was originally partitioned, based on the children having bedrooms downstairs, so leaving open play-family space. Now both daughters have moved upstairs and David Hollick has introduced more partitions. This enclosure has created one underlit room and, on the day I visited the house with the architect, they and the client got together to improve the window area. It is notable that they remain on very good terms, while the client feels ownership of the house both as a designed object and as a piece of construction they control.

The landscaping is the client's realm, where David Hollick has been able to exploit the pronounced fall of the site toward the south with planes of decking and new sleeper-sized timber stairs stepping down the courtyard and water falling from trough to trough. Paths are of gravel contained by galvanised steel strips or rectangular frames like large stepping stones. Within the walled landscape rooms completed so far, planting is mainly modestsized perennial shrubs and bush herbs with occasional highlights of annuals.

Rather like architects working on their own houses, this landscape project looks set to run and run. The only problems voiced were about maintenance access and the labour of keeping shadow-gap details clean.

Overall, it has been a successful cooperative venture of homemaking.

Structure Bob Barton, Barton Engineers At the beginning of the project, the client and architect formulated a very clear structural brief.

The building was to be constructed as a post-and-beam timber frame, with tile and timber cladding. This was not to be in the North American balloon frame tradition, but using a clearly visible framework that had a fine texture of detail.

The core of the structure comprises a two-storey softwood frame, wrapped around the central courtyard space. The frame is constructed on a close 1.35m x 2m grid, and rises to support the high-level flat roof with a clerestory below. Around the outside of the core frame, conventional pitched roofs of raking joists sit on a studwork external wall, clad in block and render.

The structural design challenge with all timber frames is the jointing of the members, and the impact of the connections on the structure's appearance. In this instance, a series of carefully considered 'shifts'were used, allowing members to slide past each other with steel bolts making the final junction. In other instances, steel nodes were fabricated from flat plates. These were then slotted into the ends of timber members, and again bolts were used to lock the connections.

The same timber framework was used to structure the conservatory, a switch from timber joist to toughened glass being the only change in construction.

Load-bearing masonry crept into the scheme around the courtyard, where the clients wished to incorporate plant storage shelves into the walls. This suggested a change of material towards blockwork and pre-cast concrete. The other deviation from the timber frame occurs where steel beams have been incorporated to allow clear spaces within the gridwork core frame.

The site is underlain by a dense sandy clay, so simple concrete footings adequately support the building's weight; although it is ironic that such a lightweight construction should find such undemanding geotechnical conditions.

Costs Cost

analysis based on final account

SUBSTRUCTURE FOUNDATIONS/SLABS £68/m 2Concrete trench fill foundations.

Insulated ground bearing concrete floor slab


UPPER FLOORS £24/m 2Part softwood, part chipboard decking on timber joists. Bridges

ROOF £105/m 2Timber framed structures. Plain clay tiles to pitched roofs. Sarnafil to flat roofs. Leadwork

STAIRCASES £3/m 2Timber framed

EXTERNAL WALLS £60/m 2Rendered block cavity walls. Boarded elevations on timber framework. Concrete shelves, sills, troughs, butts, lead cappings etc

EXTERNAL DOORS AND WINDOWS £96/m 2Timber framed. Double glazed.

INTERNAL WALLS AND PARTITIONS £52/m 2Plastered block walls. Timber stud walls.

Two chimneys/fireplaces

INTERNAL DOORS £10/m 2Playwood faced flush doors

INTERNAL FINISHES WALL FINISHES £21/m 2Plaster and emulsion paint

CEILING FINISHES £21/m 2Plaster and emulsion paint

FITTINGS AND FURNISHINGS FURNITURE £41/m 2Timber shelves, casings etc.

Fitted kitchen, ironmongery


DISPOSAL INSTALLATIONS £20/m 2Domestic foul drain system to sewer.

Surface water drain to soakaways

SPACE HEATING/AIR TREATMENT/WATER £58/m 2Gas-fired systems with radiators

ELECTRICAL SERVICES £33/m 2Standard domestic installation



SUPERSTRUCTURE Frame 3 0.41 Upper floors 24 3.25 Roof 105 14.22 Staircases 3 0.41 External walls 60 8.13 Windows and external doors 96 13.01 Internal walls and partitions 52 7.05 Internal doors 10 1.36 Group element total 353 47.84 INTERNAL FINISHES Wall finishes 21 2.84 Ceiling finishes 11 1.49 Group element total 32 4.33

FITTINGS AND FURNISHINGS 41 5.55 SERVICES Sanitary appliances 15 2.03 Disposal installations 20 2.71 Space heating/air treatment/water 58 7.86 Electrical services 33 4.47 Builders'work in connection 4 0.54 Group element total 130 17.61

PRELIMINARIES 114 15.45 AND INSURANCE TOTAL 738 100.00 Costs supplied by Richard Andrews, Peter North & Partners CREDITS TENDER DATE April 1997

START ON SITE DATE September 1997


2FORM OF CONTRACT AND/OR PROCUREMENT JCT Intermediate Contract 1984 edition

TOTAL COST £196,360

ARCHITECT Proctor Matthews:

James Burch, William Burges, Andrew Cadey, Lydia Cheung, Andrew Matthews, Stephen Proctor


QUANTITY SURVEYOR Richard North & Partners C



SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS flat roofing Sarnafil; windows Scandinavian Window Systems; structural glazing Dow Construction Products; ironmongery Allgood D-line range; pitched roofing Redland Roofing Systems; pitched roof membraneMonarflex UK Group; rainwater goods Bailey; roofing HC Slingsby; lighting Designer Lighting

WEBLINKS Barton Engineers www. bartonengineers. co. uk Peter North & Partners www. peternorth. co. uk

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.