Sussex design and planning consultancy, G M Moore & Associates has won approval for a partially underground, ultra-modern, low-carbon building in the South Downs National Park.
It is hard to get approval for new buildings in the South Downs National Park but planning officers from Lewes District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority accepted the importance, after being convinced by Glenn Moore & Associates on behalf of their client, of making an architectural statement.
The new building will replace a 1930s bungalow that had been extended over the years and had little architectural merit, according to Glenn Moore. With views from the site to the coast between Newhaven and Seaford, the design is influenced by the topography and the post-modernist movement, while paying homage to light houses, silos and
Glenn’s design evolved to respect the existing contours of the site. The lower floor sleeping wings have been cut into the slope to reduce visual bulk and use the natural insulation properties of the chalk strata. A green wildflower roof has been incorporated to soften visual impact.
The central circular turret provides internal access to the sleeping quarters at the lower level and gives access to the extensive grassed natural landscape outside. The central level contains the kitchen and living areas with access to the drive, garaging and storage wing which also has a green roof. The upper level contains a seating area and viewing balcony overlooking the sea. The turret roof is conical and clad in copper
which will be left to weather naturally.
Glenn explains: “The aim of the design is to be highly sensitive to the landscape setting. The dwelling is designed to directly respond to its setting within the plot. As such it
complies with the National Planning Policy Framework which states that development should function well and add to the overall quality of the area, and be visually attractive as a result of good architecture.
“The majority of the ground floor area lies tucked into the contour line and partially underground, meaning that little will be seen from the north east, from the village and in longer views. The circular roundel might be seen from these views, but it will be a smaller element than the existing dwelling.”
The floor area of the proposed dwelling is 375 m² including the upper viewing gallery. The building provides adaptable family accommodation for parents and teenagers’ accommodation, or guest accommodation. The design brief was to provide a flexible, inclusive, modern dwelling that respected its setting and would have a level of sustainability consistent with Passiv Haus standards. A key feature of the interior of the building is the spiral staircase acting as the central core and spine to the dwelling, filled with light. Inspired by the organic forms produced by nature and spirals of stairs within tall round structures or curved architectural buildings.
The lower floor incorporating sleeping accommodation is set into the existing slope while following the curved contours of the site. This, together with the green level roof linked to the car parking and reception levels ameliorates the visual prominence of this element. The overhang of the green roof, the use of non-reflective glazing and setting the fenestration to the inner wall plane will further reduce the visual impact and reduce solar gain.
Glenn added: “The overall design provides a strong link with the landscape and creates a positive reaction and balance with nature. To reflect the external presences, the house internally has been subdivided by the geometry of the circular and angular form. The building is broken into its component parts dictated by the geometry within the circle with the staircase being the central core. The predominant functioning parts of the home are on the entrance level, with sleeping, rest and play in the basement and the mezzanine providing solace and peace above the main functioning space.”
Sustainable technologies have been incorporated such as: a ground source heat pump; mechanical heat recovery and ventilation system; wet underfloor heating system; high levels of insulation; rainwater harvesting; grey water recycling; triple glazing with non-reflective glass and low-energy lighting.
Client John Percival said: “Glenn’s many years of experience in Sussex and working in the National Park, and his Aussie sense of humour, was a great help, in working through the complexities of planning and design, and coming up with a successful result.”