Wide, free spaces inside and out give this spectacular home peace and calm
Volume, space and position in the landscape have always been the effective register of varying power and wealth; yet ‘Stormy Castle’ by Loyn & Co Architects is the very antithesis of its name. Its 765m2 of space and generous disposition of volumes seek no prominence in its remarkable landscapes on a distant Welsh promontory. Much of it sinks into the land. This is not false modesty but a hugely subtle architectural essay.
This is classical Villa Savoie and organic Falling Water merged into one project, but with the latter the absolutely dominant ethos. There are no singular objects on plinths. The concrete interior is poured over new contours in abstract planes, with steps chiselled into them. The volumes are turned and canted in plan and section to connect distinct uses to dramatic views. There is no Frank Lloyd Wright hearth organising the plan, though this is no castle of freezing stone halls, but a Code 5 sustainable home with all the latest ecological technology.
Only the top pavilion is pure Savoie or even Farnsworth. But the rest fits Bruno Zevi’s definition of organic, where elevations, fenestration and internal space and uses are organised to connect and delight in the wonder of the surroundings, avoiding false imposed symmetries or orders. Floor and roof planes merge exterior and interiors.
Playing with the 18th century Ha-Ha illusion, it sends the foreground seemingly straight to the horizon while defending the inhabitants from straying animals and humans. At the same time, the material treatment and functions close to create a sense of separate floating planes.
It is not the upstairs-downstairs architecture of ‘Downton’ with ornamented florid interiors festooned with family heirlooms and portraits to hold soirees for grandees or political fixers. Stormy Castle is home to a couple who hope it will be an irresistible magnet to fledged progeny to return and give grandparents another enjoyable life-cycle .
Nor is it the vernacular architecture of the site’s original farm, where views were irrelevant to those who worked the land and lived almost permanently in that majestic outdoors (one small remnant remains, a barn, now sweetly sheathed in CorTen and holding the client’s audio and cinema centre).
This is post ‘Parades End’ modern architecture – where the state, on behalf of the people, exacts a heavy tithe on those with the wealth and power to select the most spectacular landscapes for their lives, but choose not to work on the land. So there were a £20,000 bat loft and endless archeological site inspections delayed the site works, presentations to the Design Commission for Wales, and months of negotiations with local planners; there might be a mansion tax – all this helps explain a £1.8m price tag.
Like so many interiors for the extremely well-off, the very costly minimalism hides all life’s clutter; empty generous volumes are paradoxically an expression of wealth and power. The uneasy tension between the ‘monks cell’ and the reality of over-consuming lives is ever present. But it is clear that a yearning for serenity, tranquillity and separation from the messy busy world lies deep somewhere in the couple’s dreams.
It is architecture worthy of an OMA signature, which would of course send it viral across the architectural magazines of the world. But it’s better than OMA. It’s not a look-at-me object of intellectual tricks. Loyn & Co’s Stormy Castle is a vortex of stunning varying landscapes to nourish the mind and spirit; misty, mysterious, breathtaking and sometimes stormy. It is spectacular ‘weathervane’ architecture of the very best sort, and it’s in Wales.
Patrick Hannay is editor of Touchstone Wales