Denizen Works’ take on the 19th century Highland baronial hall seems carved from the local terrain. Director Andrew Ingham reveals the secrets of Hundred Acre Wood’s material richness
Hundred Acre Wood, Argyll and Bute
Denizen Works for private client
Contract value: Confidential
Denizen Works’ large, seven-bedroom house overlooking Loch Awe takes inspiration from 19th century Highland baronial architecture, but is also infused with references ranging from Mackintosh’s Hill House and Charles Moore’s Sea Ranch to the carved sculptures of Eduardo Chillida, and gives a quirkily contemporary twist to historical allusions. Facades are finished in traditional Scottish harling, but the rough-cast render is made of TV screens – a wry joke as the client doesn’t watch television.
The house was principally to be a retreat for the clients’ extended family. Its physical and symbolic heart is a double-height hall, dimensioned to allow a 5.5m-high Christmas tree. It stands below an oculus lined in gold leaf and above a drain. Living accommodation wraps around this space, rising to three storeys to make one ‘tower’ on the southern corner and two in a bedroom wing, whose sloping roofline echoes the fall of the land down to a small loch at the eastern end. Interiors share something of the building’s spare, rugged outward character, with a giant harling-covered hearth filling one corner of the living room, and a white-tiled one in the double-height, barrel-vaulted dining room. On top, a fireplace in a sheltered roof terrace warms guests enjoying spectacular views.
‘Architects often strive to make their buildings feel like they truly belong in a place,’ said the House of the Year jury. ‘Embedded in the landscape, this house almost feels like it has been carved from the local terrain. It has a protective shell, a primal response to the exposed site and harsh weather.’ They noted the way that a slightly forbidding first impression gives way to the subtle beauty of the glittering facade. ‘We enjoyed the ephemeral and dreamy quality of these surfaces as a counterpoint to the bold, craggy volumes of the exterior.’
Three questions for Andrew Ingham, director, Denizen Works
What is your favourite feature of the house?
I particularly enjoy its material richness, and how these qualities are amplified by the elements. Externally, the building is clad in a cloudy blue-grey aggregate formed from recycled TV screens that become translucent in the rain. Internally, a gold leaf-lined oculus casts a warm glow on the mica-flecked clay walls in the central double-height hall. The space is capped with a recycled paper-clad ceiling with the appearance of a rough textured concrete, accentuating an elemental character that changes throughout the day with the movement of the sun.
What was the greatest challenge?
From a design perspective, it was how to create an architecture that was appropriate for a vast site that had no built context to refer to. We looked to historical precedents from Scottish architecture and typologies that occupied similar landscapes – from iron age brochs and tower houses to Mackintosh’s Hill House – and those fed into the spatial arrangements and form-making. Practically, we faced many challenges owing to the remoteness of the site and the onset of the Covid pandemic during the build, but we had a great team around us and so were able to adapt quickly to new ways of working.
Are there lessons from this project that could be taken forward into others?
For Hundred Acre Wood we developed a bespoke cladding product from locally sourced, recycled TV screens. The screens are processed by a recycling company into a soft-edged aggregate with a hue that evoked the moody Scottish skies. We sourced two grades of this crushed glass aggregate and used it to define different elements on the elevations; the sculptural qualities of the building are underscored by employing larger pieces on the main walls, with the finer aggregate used on cutaways and reveals. We’re always keen to experiment with new materials, or to re-purpose existing materials in new ways to imbue our buildings with a unique character, and it’s something we’ll continue to explore on future projects.
Contractor Colorado Construction
Cost consultant Morham & Brotchie Partnership
Structural engineer CRA (Edinburgh)
M&E engineer Harley Haddow
Timber frame design FrameTech Design
CDM advisor LBE Services Chartered Surveyors
Lighting design Arup