Hertfordshire House, Residential Building, Property Design, New Architecture Photos, Architects
Hertfordshire House: English Property
Contemporary English Residential Development in Herts, southeast England, UK
6 Nov 2008
Contemporary Hertfordshire House
Date built: 2003
Design: Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects
Photographs: Hélène Binet
New House in Hertfordshire
Commissions for new private houses are rare especially in the leafy commuter belt of north London, so when a client comes forward who is committed to the creation of new and innovative architecture it is a pleasure to rise to the challenge.
This is no ordinary client in a number of ways; a patron of contemporary art and a sponsor of a major art school he and his wife had decided to reflect the change in their lifestyle resulting from the departure of the last of their four children by remodeling their existing 1920s house.
Following the development of a number of options for the remodeling it became clear that their true ambitions would only be fulfilled by creating a completely new and different style of house. Although the client wanted a new home they did not want to move from the area they and their family had lived in for twenty years. When the search for a suitable site in the locality proved fruitless they resolved to demolish their existing house and rebuild on the same plot.
This is a mature suburban garden planted with a fine collection of specimen trees, in a conservation area. The design of the new house maximizes its connection to the garden with large glazed openings, courtyards and sliding doors and required a non traditional structural solution. Concrete fin walls with recessed window frames allowed the openings to be maximized and the structure expressed.
The desire to keep the visual structure as thin as possible also posed structural and insulation problems. A preliminary proposal to use pre-caste lightweight panels from Germany was dropped when the manufacturer pulled out. The eventual solution revolved around the use of very high strength lightweight concrete poured in reusable steel shuttering. The system worked well and the quality of the resulting fair-faced work was well up to the clients expectations set by a study visit to Switzerland.
The very large openings are glazed with low emittance argon filled double glazed units imported from Germany set in thermally broken curtain wall glazing frames recessed or flush with the walls. The sub frames internal and external flooring and much of the furniture and external features are made from Jarrah imported from managed forests in Western Australia. Other hardwoods were rejected as being difficult or impossible to obtain from reliably controlled sustainable sources.
A key feature of the brief was that they wished to live in the house for the remainder of their lives. This posed concerns over accessibility and adaptability. All thresholds are flush and access to all garden areas is or can be resolved by ramp. The doors are all oversized and offer easy access for the partially infirm. The appropriateness of this approach has been recently justified when the client’s son suffered a serious fall leaving him in a wheelchair for some months. The access audit of the completed building has thrown up very few problems and accommodating his needs has been relatively simple.
The planning process was difficult but the scheme attracted the support of the local conservation officer who could see the merit in creating a carefully designed modern house as an adjunct to the wide range of styles that had been built in the area over the previous century. The local authority finally passed the scheme with a raft of conditions all of which have been successfully fulfilled.
The commission expanded to include the design of the landscape, planting and interior furniture and fixtures giving the project a truly integrated and coherent feel. The architects were also responsible for the assisting with the selection of and the procurement of fine art commissions ranging from large scale external sculpture to contemporary glass installations and innovative gauze privacy screens to the master bedroom. Other commissioned pieces include a mirror ‘chandelier’ in the dining room, the dining room and living room tables, and all of the bedroom and study furniture.
Hertfordshire House photos / information from Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects
Location: Hertfordshire, England, UK
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photo © Sophie Mutevelian Photography
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photo © Charlie Birchmore Photography
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photo : Kilian O’Sullivan
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Published in the RIBA Journal, 2003
Buildings / photos for the Hertfordshire House design by Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects UK page welcome