Text description provided by the architects. Water Meadow is a bespoke family home set within a quintessentially English estate on the banks of the River Thames in Buckinghamshire, replacing a dilapidated sixties bungalow which sat precariously above the rising flood waters. The brief, for our first new build project, was to create a “forever home” for our retired clients, accommodating their grown-up children and social lifestyles whilst reconnecting the dwelling to the sprawling rear garden and views towards the marina.
The client’s brief was clear from the outset, large open spaces for people to convene and take in the views across the rear gardens. Early sketches and conversations began to evoke open plan designs akin to the case study houses of post-war America, defining spaces within a simple rectilinear form (the former bungalow’s footprint) by means of a change in material or a single step in the plan rather than constructing walls. This method of thinking lead to a series of volumes being placed in a linear fashion along the center of the plan. These timber volumes represent serving and circulation spaces and are book-ended with a brick hearth aimed at strengthening the center of the home within the kitchen as a place to unwind.
A second story occupies just half of the footprint of the building and provides a private master suite for the clients, with an open riser stair and study linking both levels. Whilst the building's street-facing elevation remains modest at ground level and concealed behind a 1.8m tall laurel hedge, the first-floor brickwork playfully introduces a patchwork of push and pulled courses leading into a perforated skin. A small gesture to the intricate brick detailing of the surrounding houses. The south elevation; however, is composed of a series of terraces at garden, ground and first floor levels providing extensions of space with walls of glass providing a backdrop to the social antics from within.
Frank Lloyd Wright: Hearth is the psychological center of the home.
The project's location within the estate provided ample constraint from the outset. Sat within the green belt, a Conservation Area and an active flood-plain helped to define the project in section. To take maximum advantage of the sloping land and to satisfy conservation concerns, the house naturally embedded itself into the ground to maintain a low a profile along the front elevation, whilst the introduction of a mono pitch to the roofs would help maximize height at the rear. However, early feedback from the local authority resulted in the house being lifted 750mm to provide flood chambers beneath the house to future proof the occupants from rising flood levels.
This provided a series of additional challenges, both structurally and financially, consuming more than 30% of the construction budget into the groundworks. Structurally, the house would now be raised upon a concrete plinth, upon which a steel frame was erected in order to create large open spaces with no visible internal structure, and finished in a masonry outer skin which ties the house back into its setting. The result is a modest 220 sqm dwelling with strong reference to the local arts & crafts vernacular from the front with a Californian-esque rear of glass expanse and stepped terraces for al fresco entertaining.
“The approach to the house follows a strict route along narrow elongated steps, with each offering a slender view through the house to the gardens. Once at the entrance, a large sliding door completes the reveal and the green backdrop draws the visitor through to the large family space beyond.”