Welch House

The Manser Practice Architects + Designers as Architects

The Brief Our client wanted a modern four bedroom family house with large open plan living area, using the dramatic seaside site. There was a requirement to keep the cost of the house as low as reasonably possible.

The house was designed to replace an existing shack on a steeply sloping site on a wooded foreshore. Ground conditions are notoriously unstable with blue slippery clay with rotating shelves underground. Foundations needed to be deeply piled and retained with soil nails and an early decision was to create a flat stable platform for a simple ‘box’ house raised on legs above the ground. This allowed for the simplest possible below ground solution, reduced the area of house that ‘touched’ the ground, avoided the need for complex and expensive multi level changes within the house whilst raising it ‘tree house’ like amongst the trees.

An initial design with the building on steel framed legs proved too expensive so a compact tear shaped concrete tube was created on 30m deep piles with 30m long raking soil nails containing utility room and shower room on top of which was placed a simple steel framed two storey box. This contains, on the ground floor, the entrance and the bedrooms and on the first floor, a study and the living / kitchen area.

The building is clad in cement particle board rain screen cladding painted with a marine high gloss enamel. The whole building is designed on a 1200 x 1200 x 1200 grid.

(Additional Information) After a protracted planning application process (3 years) involving research on the site going back to the middle of the 19th Century and negotiations with the Environment Agency the problems of physical construction on site were addressed with the complex concrete construction below ground, tying the building into the more stable bedrock 30m below ground level, and difficult access.

The building is designed to have a small as possible physical footprint on the ground and for the house itself to appear to float within the trees as a simple, polished black box.

Internally finishes are clean, simple and economic. For reasons of economy all glazing is fixed and ventilation and cross ventilation is provided by a series of floor level opening panels and roof lights.

The lightweight steel and timber two storey ‘box’ of the house is roofed using timber self spanning insulated panels (SIPS) and the cladding to the building gives gentle reflections of all the enveloping surrounding trees.

The construction time, including ground works, was 18 months.

Precis A four bedroom family house on a sloping and unstable site on the north shore of the Isle of Wight. A light weight steel and timber two storey box is perched on top of a tubular concrete structure rising from the 30m deep foundations giving spectacular views over the Solent.

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