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West Sussex


Residential - New Build

Modern contemporary new house within South Downs National Park

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Designing built form within areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will always be a challenge for architects, namely due to the desire people have to build homes within these secluded areas surrounded by stunning landscapes and scenery. However, these sites are not without their constraints and the challenge lies in how buildings can be designed in these areas whilst retaining the characteristics of the landscape that made the site so appealing in the first place.

Adam Knibb Architects were approached to conceive a contemporary replacement dwelling within the South Downs National Park on a sloping site with views across the countryside and nestled into a sheltered enclosure of established trees. With the context of the site in mind, the design needed to respond sensitively to the surrounding landscape and limit its impact on the delicate biodiversity of the site. This resulted in designing a simple, elegant series of planes which perched lightly on the hill. The protruding planes give the impression of the building hovering delicately over the site, anchored only by the chimney and concrete steps up to the ground floor.

The plan has been designed with functionality in mind and radiates out from a central feature staircase with framed views out to the landscape. Due to the site being located within a Dark Night Sky Reserve, glazing placement and size were critical in order to reduce the impact of light pollution from the building. On the ground floor, open plan Living and Dining are deeply recessed below the overhanging planes above in order to have large expanses of glazing which take advantage of the views, whilst ensuring the light pollution is diffused by the deep overhangs. The recess of the glazing also created the opportunity for a covered external terrace to wrap around the open plan Living, allowing the building to be opened up and create a strong sense of connection with the surrounding site. Upstairs, the Bedrooms have been laid out to ensure each room enjoys framed views out to the landscape, with the Master Bedroom significantly recessed back into the building (like the open plan living below) in order to create a covered outdoor terrace area.

The building’s simple material palette of linear masonry, vertical timber cladding and exposed concrete structure has been designed to be a contemporary interpretation of the surrounding materials found within the neighbouring built form and the natural environment. Soft timber cladding laid vertically and allowed to weather naturally picks up on the surrounding verticality of the trees, whilst the masonry picks up on the solidity and colours of the surrounding built form in the area. Built-in vertical timber screens and light controlled glazing area are also proposed to further mitigate the light pollution and ensure the building has minimal impact on the natural beauty and ecology of the site.

The design looks to demonstrate that contemporary sustainable architecture has a place in rural areas of natural beauty and the complex constraints of a sensitive site can enhance rather than hinder the design outcome, creating new architectural identities within areas of traditional or rural built form.