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Claremont Road, Bath

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

James Grayley Architects unlocks an awkward site previously occupied by garages for a low-lying, part sunken home with a modest exterior, a strong spatial quality and an intimate, homely feel

Claremont Road.
Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief

2024 RIBA South West & Wessex Award

Claremont Road, Bath
James Grayley Architects for James and Katherine Grayley
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 157m2

Building anything new in Bath can be a great challenge, particularly in a contemporary style. On a little backland site in a Victorian area to the east of the city, this project’s architects succeeded in securing planning permission for a new house where others had been unsuccessful with more traditional designs. This of itself is testament to their proposal’s architectural integrity and vision. The house is not self-indulgent, though, and the way effort has been directed is intelligent and effective. The low-lying, single-storey building is partly sunken into the sloping site. Behind a modest exterior, it has a strong, uniting spatial quality but remains intimate and homely.

  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
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Previously occupied by a row of garages, the site is overlooked by a terrace of houses to the north. The new house had to avoid blocking their views while not itself overlooking the gardens around it. These constraints have led to an inward-looking house with limited views out. Still, there is plenty of light, as the plan is cleverly organised around a front garden looking up a steep driveway to the street and a courtyard tucked in the back corner, and there are strategically placed skylights. The green roof is sown with wildflowers, encouraging biodiversity, so the neighbours look out on a garden rather than the concrete surfaces of the old garages.

To avoid expensive groundworks and awkward party wall negotiations, the outer walls and some of the divisions of the garages were retained, with the added embodied carbon benefit of reusing a significant element of structure. The house is therefore built against the site boundary on two sides where the garage walls are. On the other two sides it is pulled away slightly to leave thin strips of planting, providing some crucial greenery. There are long enfilade views through the spaces, with carefully placed windows at the end to the outdoors. The external walls are faced in Bath stone with lime mortar and the windows are iroko wood, made by a local joiner.

  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
  • Claremont Road.
    Claremont Road. Credit: James Retief
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The materials of the interior are modest, with plastered walls and tiled floors. What draw your attention, though, are the exposed structural roof joists. All the same size and made from standard C24-grade spruce, these unite the spaces and retain a crucial expression of the actual construction.

This modest house shows how an architect can not only unlock an awkward site, but find joy and invention without blowing the budget.

See the rest of the RIBA South West and Wessex winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here.

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Cleveland Construction

Structural engineer Fold Structural Engineers

 

Credit: James Grayley Architects
Credit: James Grayley Architects
Credit: James Grayley Architects
Credit: James Grayley Architects
Credit: James Grayley Architects
Credit: James Grayley Architects

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