Skene Catling de la Pena
Projects:

The Dairy House (Somerset, 2008)

The conversion of a former Dairy to a five-bedroom house with a small pool. The project sits in an 850 acre Estate in Somerset.

Pragmatically the space was to be re-planned; lean-to sheds removed and an extension added to create a total of four to five bedrooms, three bathrooms, more generous circulation space with rooms of better proportions. The brief changed during the design; what was originally to be a letting property became a retreat for the Client; a place to escape the main Estate. It was to be discreet with the intervention to appear as a natural extension of the existing structure. The design set out to appear un-designed.

The design was to combine privacy and seclusion with openness to the wider landscape. The inspiration was both literal, in the stacked timber in the yard opposite, and literary, in the 18th century ‘La Petite Maison – An Architectural Seduction’, architectural treatise and erotic novella by Jean-Francois de Bastide.

The extension houses two bathrooms; everything behind the retaining wall can be flooded with water. Layered oak and laminated float glass produce an eerie, filtered light. The dematerialising effect of refraction and reflection create an aquatic underworld. The way the light moves around the house over the course of the day draws the user through it. In the morning low light floods the east with the glass acting as a prism that projects watery green lozenges over floors and walls. By midday, the sun is overhead, streaming through the roof light slot and penetrating the two-way mirror bridge giving views from the ground floor through the building. At night this is reversed, and the flames in the fireplace are visible through the floor of the landing.

The aim was to use as many local materials as possible. Estate timber is planked and dried in the storage barns in the farmyard opposite the site, and the method of drying – where raw planks are separated by spacers to allow air circulation - became the generator of the logic and aesthetic of the extension. The glass was layered in the same manner. The pieces increase in depth towards the base to reinforce a sense of weight and rustication.

Rather than demolishing and rebuilding, the sense of retreat was to be reinforced through camouflage; the form and massing of the extension echoes and compliments the existing structure. The house was to appear unchanged from the outside, and to reveal itself on entering against expectations. The entrance sequence was to discourage casual callers. The most private spaces became the most generous and luxurious; this was to be a building that privileges solitude.

 

Skene Catling de la Pena project team: Charlotte Skene Catling, Jaime de la Pena, Jose Duran, Cecilia Grazia Susca, Tania Moreira David

Consultants: Structural Engineers: Anthony Ward Partnership, Mechanical + Electrical Engineers: Downie Consulting Engineers, Lighting Consultants: Spellman Lighting Design, Claire Spellman, Extension: Paul Longpré Furniture, Contractors: Preferred Contracts, David Doyle, Hadspen House: John Bowering, Sue Begg