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Studio Bark wins go-ahead for fifth 'country house clause' home

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East London-based Studio Bark has won approval for another ‘country house clause’ home in rural West Sussex – the practice’s fifth scheme to rely on Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework

The clause allows new-build homes to be constructed in open countryside under special circumstances. The studio has previously won the go-ahead for other one-off country houses in Suffolk and Norfolk.

The latest residence at Thakeham, dubbed the Grain House, has been designed to reflect the landscape of the site on the edge of the South Downs National Park, north-east of Chichester.

According to the firm, the 362m² eco-home’s series of monolithic walls take their ’influence from the historic ox-ploughed ridge-and-furrow field patterns, as well as the undulating ridge and valley land forms that characterise the area’.

Nick Newman, director at Studio Bark said: ’Paragraph 55 continues to provide our practice with a real proving ground for new ideas and iterative thinking. [This scheme] offered the opportunity to integrate novel processes in an unprecedented manner and we look forward to continuing our research as the project progresses.

’Thanks must go to the members of Design South East review panel, whose early critique helped to put the design through its paces and propelled the team forward to unanimous approval at planning committee.’

Work is expected to start on site this summer and to complete in 2019.

The grain house studio bark model photo 3 l

The grain house studio bark model photo 3 l

Architect’s view

Initial research showed that the site was once part of a medieval glebe, separated into furlongs for strip farming. The direction of these tended strips responded to drainage, giving crops the best chance to thrive. Today the site is used for grazing but hints of its agrarian past are still visible in the form of ancient public way lines and remains of the wooded glebe.

The house itself visually recedes amid the extending walls. Living spaces are partially lowered below the earth, creating immersive views of the fields. Planted swathes sit between the lateral walls with meadow flowers and grasses reaching towards the eaves of the green roof, which itself slopes downwards with the natural fall of the land.

Circulation is envisaged as a dramatic procession – residents and visitors pass through breaks in the heavy mass of the walls, guided by light that spills from above. This route introduces a new journey through the landscape, a reference to the ancient right of way beyond that lies almost parallel.

The house is organised in two parts, the main house and an annexe, allowing the elderly parents privacy and a degree of subtle separation from the rest of the house. The annexe will be fully accessible, with its own library and study so that the parents can have private space when desired. The relationship between the two parts of the house is key to the success of the architecture – allowing three generations to enjoy living together whilst not compromising their individual needs.

The elongated plan is staggered from east to west to open up panoramic views and maximise solar gain to certain parts of the home. The narrow plan also maximises opportunities for natural light and passive cross-ventilation.

Views of the home from key points within the boundary and from further afield have been considered in relation to natural topography and building form. Passers-by will experience the building as a piece of land art, which changes in form and proportion as the observer moves through the landscape.

A reinterpretation of the traditional ‘ha-ha’ forms the field edge boundary of the building. In this way livestock can continue to graze up to the front of the dwelling without the visual interference of fences.

The grain house studio bark ground floor plan h

The grain house studio bark ground floor plan h

As a practice focused on the environment, this proposal is to be environmentally responsible through a careful selection of materials, combined with rigorous technical detailing.

The walls are to be constructed from the world’s first carbon-negative building block, invented and manufactured by UK company Lignacite. While the environmental credentials of the block are impressive, the block typically has little to differentiate it visually from a regular concrete block.

We engaged in a series of enquiries and meetings with the company to develop a cut-face block for external use revealing its aggregate make-up – a first for this product.

The design has evolved as a result of an innovative collaboration with co-located environmental consultants Atmos Lab. By working in close proximity and employing state-of-the-art parametric analysis, the team has made strategic, iterative decisions in response to solar paths, drainage and views.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Para 55 sets an exceptionally high bar. To achieve approval for 5 is quite a record. It is also good to read that design review's contribution is acknowledged.

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