Carreg a Gwydr (‘Stone and Glass’) occupies an exceptional vantage point offering 270º panoramic views over miles of uninterrupted farmland in the Wye Valley AONB descending southwards to the Severn Estuary. The brief called for a home that took maximum advantage of this key asset, while providing generous and flexible family accommodation. Tight AONB planning constraints limited the external scale, so the wish for a luxurious house needed to be achieved in a two storey dwelling of little more than 200m2. The clients wished to maximise energy efficiency and reduce long term fuel bills
Originally refused planning permission by Monmouthshire County Council in 2008, this replacement dwelling won at an Appeal Hearing in 2009 following Hall + Bednarczyk Architects’ successful demonstration that the building’s design was suitable for its protected landscape setting. The application had been strenuously resisted by planners who were keen to see the enlargement of a farm worker’s dwelling which existed on the site. However, the original cottage had already been much-modified, and what was left of its vernacular form would have been further compromised by extension.
Creating a home with a generous and expansive sense of space raised a potential conflict with the AONB’s tight planning restrictions on building volume. A design emerged which maximized habitable space by employing very low pitched roof forms. The effect of this was to introduce a horizontal emphasis to the design that, when combined with carefully selected materials, served to diminish the building’s prominence when viewed against the natural features of the surrounding landscape.
Sandstone walls, which were an existing feature of the site, have been manipulated into curving protective elements that enclose the northern elevation, while the southern elevation is a sliding glass wall intended to create the most transparent connection possible between the house interior and the countryside beyond.
Construction techniques were developed with stone masons which avoided the need to bond the pennant sandstone with visible mortar, enabling highly insulated cavity walls to echo dry stone walling characteristic of the region. The upper storey uses steam-curved cedar boarding as a more lightweight ribbon of material, which incorporates cassette cavities for roosting bats. A steel frame set back from the face of the glazed elevations provides a building structure with sufficient stiffness to enable the external envelope to be made up of unusually slender elements. The apparent delicacy of the south elevation is intended to be a counterpoint to the more rugged texture and construction of the stone flanking walls. A blade-like zinc roof and first floor balcony oversail the building in a dynamic gesture that offers solar protection along the south elevation, while limiting glare and reflection.
The ground floor spaces reach out to the landscape via a flush threshold that leads on to a raised terrace. A stone perimeter wall forms an essential livestock barrier but is kept low enough to the level of the terrace to maintain uninterrupted views.
Above ground, this four bedroom house is relatively modest in size, totaling 213m2 gross internal area over two floors. In order to maximise the beneficial use of above ground space, a substantial basement occupies the entire building footprint, resulting in a total area of 320m2. The final contract value including external works and a 50m2 garage was equated to £2,000 per sq m.
1. Fineline - Glazing
2. Morgans of Usk - Steel Frame
3. Rheinzink - Zinc Roof
4. Nibe - Ground Source Heat Pump
5. Harvey Jones - Kitchen
6. Onnen Furniture - Kitchen Island
7. Advance Joinery - Staircase
8. Mandarin Stone - Bathroom tiles
9. Duravit - Sanitaryware