AR Design Studio has won approval, at the second attempt, for plans to replace a 19th-century house in a village outside Winchester with a ‘bespoke, contemporary’ home sunk into the landscape
Winchester City Council’s planning committee had rejected the practice’s first proposal for The Well House, overlooking the Itchen Navigation in rural Shawford, which featured weathered bronze cladding and a striated concrete base.
Only one of the eight committee members voted to approve the plans, with the council claiming the scheme represented an ‘incongruous form of development with regards to its design, form, massing and materials which [did] not respect the features of the landscape character area’.
Among objections received by the council against the application was one saying: ‘We have seen the proposals for Well House and are horrified that a house which is sympathetic to its environment is to be replaced with one so at odds with its surroundings.’
The Winchester-based firm appealed against the refusal but also lodged a second application (pictured) which altered its earlier proposals.
That reworked design has now been unanimously approved with all eight committee members voting in favour of the application.
The revisions included ‘minimising the building’s spread’, the introduction of timber cladding instead of a bronze skin for the upper volumes, and a reworked ‘solid brick base’.
The 525m² scheme, which is for the existing building’s owners, is also lower in height and ‘hunkers down into the sloping landscape to appear visually lost in the hillside against the wooded backdrop’.
A spokesperson for the practice said: ‘The approval comes at the end of a year-long planning process and a resubmission in which the practice worked closely with the local council and a team of consultants to develop a scheme that responds carefully to both its built and natural surroundings.’
Construction work is expected to start in August next year (2020).
The existing Well House (left); AR Design Studio’s revised proposals (right)
The architect’s view
The site is hidden down a quiet residential lane with a strong visual connection to the surrounding verdant context. From the lane, the site steps and slopes towards its east boundary to meet the Itchen Navigation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the South Downs National Park. As a result of the existing house’s location atop the highest part of the site, the traditional three-storey house is largely exposed in its current location.
While some neighbouring houses stand proud of the topography along the lane, others can be seen to be sunk within the landscape, responding to the sloped landscape while taking advantage of the long views. Within the built context is a diverse range of houses. The piecemeal fashion along the street lacks local distinctiveness giving a sense of being evolved organically over time. This variation of buildings provides the opportunity for a proposal to add to the eclectic mix, while being sensitive to its context.
Upon visiting the site, it was felt that the significance of the site’s rural setting would have to inform the backbone of any design that was delivered. This rationale has been translated to the proposed design, derived from the initial concept of hunkering down into the sloping landscape to appear visually lost in the hillside against the wooded backdrop. The scheme uses a materiality of timber and brick, the timber volumes floating atop a solid brick base. From the road, the timber cladding blends with the context, whilst the heavier brick grounds the scheme.
The existing basement level is excavated to open up the lower portion of the proposed house onto its garden, while above this sits the first-floor accommodation. Despite the house being two storeys, the lower floor is not visible from the lane and dramatically reduces the built impact.
This first floor is divided up into thee component parts, dictated by function between which are areas of circulation. In doing so the overall mass is broken up which helps the elevation to blend into its wooded backdrop. The first-floor elements are then pushed and pulled in order to respond to the accommodation requirements. To the front of the house this creates a sunken courtyard, and to the rear it creates some covered outdoor space at ground-floor level while creating depth in the elevation.
To open up the sunken courtyard to the front of the house each block is splayed, creating a sense of movement within the building and opening up the inbetween spaces. This movement is also mimicked in the roof slope to better reflect that of the surrounding trees and landscaping. The eaves lines facing the street are dropped to minimise the amount of elevation visible while those to the rear open up to the views. These pitched roof elements are proposed to be a green roof planted with assorted wildflowers/perennials that will encourage biodiversity, assist with the water management of the building and soften the appearance of the building when viewed from the lane.
To help the proposal further blend into its context, the landscape strategy removes much of the existing terracing and restores the natural slope of the site, with the aim to create a garden that is wilder in nature and fosters more wildflowers and grasses. In turn this will provide the opportunity for ecological enhancements and habitat creation.
An environmental approach has also been adopted through passive devices, building fabric and technology. Passive environmental devices include the massing and orientation of the building. The three east-facing volumes allow the sun to warm the house in the morning, reducing the need for heating. These volumes incorporate overhangs, as well as recessed glazing to provide solar shading to avoid overheating in the summer. This also helps to minimise the amount of light spill. Furthermore, as part of a holistic approach to sustainability, innovative technologies have also been explored, the scheme becoming an eco-house of sorts.
As such, the proposal challenges the built context with a contemporary approach, whilst minimising its impact on the surroundings, being environmentally conscious and providing opportunities for biodiversity to flourish. This has resulted in a one-off contemporary design which enhances the architectural distinctiveness of the area while blending into the verdant context, creating conditions for the building and its site to thrive in the future.
Location Shawford, Winchester, Hampshire
Type of project Replacement residential house
Architect AR Design Studio
Landscape architect Ibbotson Studios
Planning consultant PlanIt Consulting, Turley
Structural engineer Not yet appointed
Main contractor Not yet appointed
Tender date Not yet decided
Start on site date August 2020
Completion date February 2022
Contract duration 18-24 months
Gross internal floor area 525m²
Form of contract and/or procurement Traditional
Annual CO2 emissions Not yet studied
Total cost Undisclosed
Landscape site section