The Aviaries, Somerset, 2014

Invited Competition

The competition was for a new country house within the grounds of a listed building on a large estate. Adjacent to the existing house is a walled aviary, and the remains of an arboretum. The entry to the new house imagined the walled enclosure extending to include the location of the new house, perched on the prow of the hill, with the approach to the house through flowering fruit trees. The house straddles the wall, carved from the solid, tethered to the garden but facing the view beyond. Walls provide a shelter, security and secrecy, the gardens a playful retreat. The walls are not just a motif; they offer protection from the wind, and trap the sun. The house seems as if it has appeared over many years, added to as needed, to create a house both formal and relaxed, contemporary and timeless.
In this house we were trying to capture a sense of an old house within a modern building; the kind of old house that feels like it’s been around a bit, and has its own character and quirks. We liked the quality that old country houses develop over time, with a succession of additions that create a house, each addition adding something new, and being slightly at odds with that that had gone before. Outbuildings get absorbed into the house and extend its use. Gardens change their use; fronts become backs. These old buildings are full of intrigue with stairs to other parts and connections to new spaces. They aren’t symmetrical show-pieces, and have lines that aren’t straight, roofs that don’t quite line up, and chimneys in odd places. They feel like home.