Kensington, London, UK
A new, low-energy, understated house in a magical location: on a long, narrow, elevated strip of land between two lakes of a former fishery in Northamptonshire, rural England.
The brief was for a private house and separate stabling which would feel of their world, and sit comfortably in the landscape. Both the house and the stabling express the local agricultural vernacular by being clad in grey, corrugated, fibreboard, the default material for barns throughout the region. A farm building from the outside, a comfortable home on the inside.
For much of its length the house is glazed and looks on to the lakes on both sides, as if built upon an island. Sliding glass doors let in the natural world and open to spacious decks overhanging the water, together with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. The water reflects the sun, trees and clouds, and inside, reflected sunlight dances around the walls and ceilings. The house is immersed in the natural world but feels safe, with curved walls and gently-defined internal spaces, and at its centre a reassuring fireplace.
The house hovers lightly over the water yet is resilient and robust. Designed from the outset with the construction process in mind, using prefabricated, mass-produced components that can be quickly and economically assembled on site. The structure consists of a steel frame, supported by a grid of steel piles, sunk deep into the land. The frame is braced by large format concrete planks at both floor and roof. What looks like a traditional pitched roof is actually a floating visor, slightly detached from the main structure, which gives shade as well as concealing rooftop equipment.
The house is designed for low energy use. It is highly insulated throughout, triple glazed, and the concrete roof and floor give considerable thermal mass. The heating and hot water come from an air source heat pump powered by rooftop solar panels. The entire structure is designed to limit temperature variation and thereby reduce energy consumption. No fossil fuels are used on site and sewage is dealt with by a bio-digester.
Additionally, the bronze front doors are salvage from an earlier project, and the interior joinery is recycled from oak furniture made from trees that fell in the 1987 storm on the owner’s grandparents’ land.
The property is planted with native species of grasses, wildflowers and hedgerow plants that blend in with the wider rural landscape.
The House Betwern Two Lakes has been shortlisted for the AJ Architecture Prize – Manser Medal House of the Year 2022 >
Main photograph by Simon Watson for British Vogue.
All remaining images © Sophie Hicks Architects