A low, dark oversailing roof and modest entrance belie the sense of awe that awaits inside this pavilion designed for a couple in which to enjoy gardening and artistic pursuits
RIBA National Award winner 2023
2023 RIBA South West & Wessex Award winner
Nicholas Lyons of LYONS ARCHITECTS with Hamish Herford for private client
Contract value: Confidential
Blackbird, designed for a couple to enjoy their gardening and artistic pastimes, is sited in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and surrounded by protected woodland in the Cotswolds. On approach, the roof barely peeks above the walled garden and the modest, grounded entrance hall belies the awe experienced on rising to the elevated main floor where the living spaces are. A home that is truly a delight to enter and discover.
Despite the elevated position, accessibility is far from compromised, as a gentle ramp connects the garden to a generous 1.5m wide veranda that wraps around and defines the pavilion footprint. This sheltered external space can be enjoyed all year round, accessible directly from rooms along its path.
To the south, a newly created lake becomes a key focal point and imagining this home without it is almost impossible. It can be used actively for swimming and boating or passively to wander around or sit at leisure with, admiring the wildlife it has attracted. On a more prosaic front, the lake also contains water-source heat pumps that heat the house, and in summer the water cools air that passes over and ventilates the home.
Inside, the layout is simple and pleasingly easy to navigate. Cellular rooms are limited to the two ends of the pavilion, with an ease of connection to the central open-plan kitchen, dining, and living space. Part of the brief was that the home would allow for differing generations of family and friends to gather and yet also feel cosy and comfortable when the couple are alone, and one can imagine it succeeding with this.
Materially the palette is restrained, often dark but never stark. Black metal diamond shingles cover the roof, charred timber boarding clads the walls and black oak flooring is used internally throughout. But there is lightness and softness too, with exposed spruce rafters and a very huggable green oak post to the living room. Thoughtfully, areas of white wall act as a blank canvas for the owners’ art.
The use of concrete is limited to the strip footings and minimal lower-ground-floor spaces, windows are triple glazed and airtightness is very high. The house produces less than half the carbon of an average household, with future plans for a wind turbine installation and photovoltaics aiming to reduce this further. Most of the waste from excavations was redeployed on site in the landscaping, for which the client grew over 2,000 plants from seed. A large proportion of rainwater runs off the roof and is collected by the lake, topping up that lost by evaporation. So from many aspects this building has a close relationship to nature.
Blackbird’s lasting impression captures the essence of both its namesakes. It possesses the simplicity and mellowness of the common garden bird, alongside the bold and striking form of the Lockheed SR-71 aircraft that inspired the architects. Yet, thankfully, it is far from common and far from inhumane.
Architectural Design Nicholas Lyons and Hamish Herford
Structural engineer Momentum
Landscape architect FFLO
Project Management LYONS ARCHITECTS
Environmental / M&E engineer QODA
Arboricultural SJ Stephens Associates
Ecology MD Ecology
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