The essence of this project is a ‘screen’ wall of monolithic concrete. Its form encloses a courtyard garden, a contemporary hortus conclusus, hidden from neighbours’ windows and with its own sheltered microclimate. Built for a family of sun-worshippers to take advantage of the south facing aspect, the concrete acts as a heat sink to prolong the daytime warmth into the evening.
Our clients requested a ‘grown-up’ extension to enjoy now their children are teenagers. Practically, they wanted a ‘messy’ side entrance with bike storage, study space and a TV room that was visually, but not audibly, connected to the rest of the house. The kitchen was also moved from the front to the rear to allow views into the garden while cooking.
Achieving a consistent, smooth finish for the concrete wall was the most technically challenging part of the design, as well as the biggest concern for the client. We worked closely with the contractor to build precise formwork, and developed an exacting specification for the mix and pour with concrete specialist David Bennett. The concrete is strong and monumental, but also smooth like fine marble, or even ‘soft’ to the touch like suede. It provides a powerful, yet calming, backdrop to the intense greens and delicate foliage of the garden – especially two beautiful mature trees, which have been carefully retained close by.
There was a wonderful moment in construction when the formwork was struck and the only element present above ground was the stepped concrete wall standing in space. Walking around this ‘screen,’ interior and exterior spaces were blurred, one being an inversion of the other. This feeling remains tangible after completion when looking or moving from inside to outside and back again through the stepped plan. The intensity is accentuated in the use of reflection in glazing and mirrors.