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Nick Willson submits West Sussex ‘eco-house’ plans

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[First look] Nick Willson Architects has submitted a planning application for this 297m² private house in Rowhook, West Sussex

Designed for a sloping rural site, the scheme features a red brick northern wall ‘spine’ with glazing and timber cladding on the south elevation.

The proposal also includes solar thermal heating and a chimney with a concealed stair.

Nick Willson Architects' private house scheme in Rowhook, West Sussex

Nick Willson Architects’ private house scheme in Rowhook, West Sussex

The architect’s view

‘We want to create a new eco-friendly home that is sympathetic to the beautiful countryside with a design that respects the landscape and natural contours of the site.

We propose a house that will blend seamlessly with its surroundings as it steps gently down the location’s natural topography thus softening the visual impact from the road. Orientated towards the sun for passive solar gain, the rooms of this new home will be flooded with light all day.

Conceptually, the house is designed as having a northern red brick wall spine which runs from the car port at the top of the site down to the terrace next to the copse towards the East of the site.

This wall is then punctuated with varying sized openings and seats internally.  The brick is exposed internally in certain areas, giving the house a textural and warm feeling.

In plan the wall is two L shaped elements that mirror each other, the first forming the entrance and car port and the second the chimney and living space wall. The double height space forms the break between the two elements and opens the view to both sides.

The wall represents the brick walled gardens in traditional English gardens. To manipulate with the wall further we have proposed a varied palette of brick work, from flemish bond, to hit and miss and herringbone bond.  The thickness of the wall allows for shadow, and texture along the length as well as high insulation levels.

As a foil to this more solid element, the southern facades of the house are more glazed and timber clad. The timber being a mixture of 50 mm sawn timber cladding and planed for doors and vents.

A series of timber louvres shade the Western sun and provide privacy for the bedrooms.

A sloping roof sits above the timber, brick and glazed elements separated from the brick spine with high level glazing, which affords views of the mature trees to the North. The roof will have a copper soffit externally which will shimmer in the sun. A sedum finish to the top will help with bio-diversity.

The experience of the house and site starts at the new entrance with a sloping driveway down to the car port. Hedges and flowers shield the house for privacy and offer a level of surprise once in the house. The car port is open to reduce its mass and also houses a log store and cycle, bin store. Here the red brick spine wall wraps around the functions with the use of hit and miss brick work.

The timber roof then floats over to the top continuing to the house as a covered entrance way. Vertical timber screens allow for planting to grow along the entrance path. At this point there is a change in level and a small opening through the brick screen into the Northern garden and meadow.

The entrance is expressed via a large copper clad front door. Once through the door, there is an entrance hall with brick flooring and coat cupboard, bench. A W.C and shower is off to the right. At this point the view is directed down the spine wall which terraces down with storage and gallery along the way and a single window seat framing a view of the large trees to the North.

The view at the end of the gallery is centred on the fireplace.’

The wet, utility, plant spaces are concealed behind the gallery wall, housing the boilers, solar thermal tanks and boot room.

At the bottom of the gallery the level changes subtly and the double height dining room opens up with a view to both sides of the site, this space will be flooded with natural light and a contrast to the lower darker entrance sequence.

The double height space is framed by the brick chimney and fireplace. The brick will be herringbone which mirrors that of the entrance floor. The chimney starts the second part of the brick spine and also shifts the circulation and entrance to the more private living space to the front of the house.

The chimney also houses the staircase to the first floor with a light well above. A change of level through the chimney leads to the living space which has a corner view of the copse and landscaping. A window seat allows views to the North. In addition the living room wall is exposed brick which continues out side to form a low garden wall to the Eastern terrace.

At first floor, the building has the more private master suite to the East above the living space, and the guest, children’s bedrooms/bathrooms to the West. The two sides are linked with a library and link bridge which over looks the double height space. A flexible study also looks over the double height void space creating a vertical connection to the dining family spaces below.

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