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Proportion, Harmony, Materiality & Craft: On the brilliance of Bighton Grange

This beautifully restrained new-build villa in Hampshire has been recognised as one of the standout UK projects of the past year by RIBA. We had to take a closer look… Print PDFThese articles...

This beautifully restrained new-build villa in Hampshire has been recognised as one of the standout UK projects of the past year by RIBA. We had to take a closer look…

BightonGrangePaulHighnam2

Bighton Grange was designed by ADAM Architecture’s George Saumarez Smith and put together by a team including R. J. Smith & Co (Contractor), White Royall Dixon (Structural Engineers), Qoda Consulting  (M&E Engineers), and Roeder Landscape Design (Landscape Architects).

Here’s what the RIBA judges said in bestowing a coveted 2016 Regional (South) Award…

It is challenging to produce a building that is true to Neo-Classical principles while having to deal with the constraints of current building regulations and environmental considerations. This project is rigorous and joyful, a successful interpretation of a Classical style but successfully adapted for modern living.

The house feels settled internally – it does not feel like a new build

This is far from pastiche, it has substance and demonstrates a real understanding of proportion, harmony, materiality and craft. The house feels settled internally – it does not feel like a new build. It fulfils all key criteria set out by the client; all the building elements are extremely well crafted throughout; 
the indoor air quality is excellent, and the
 detailing is exceptional at every turn. The staircase in particular is a well-considered composition. The bathrooms are particularly well handled with the tiles and other materials being reclaimed, making the bathrooms a real feature of the house. In fact all the spaces within the building are delightful, very well considered and composed.

The house has external walls with a 215mm thick brick outer skin. This has structural benefits but more importantly improves the thermal mass and U-Value of the building’s envelope. During construction, opportunities for the reuse and recycling of waste from the construction process was maximised by the contractor. The house uses an existing underground brick chamber to store collected rainwater, it uses reclaimed Welsh slates on the roof, and features a ground source heat pump to provide heating and hot water.

The house is dignified without being grand. This derives from the architect’s approach which considers elevations not as mere sides, rear and front but rather as faces, each revealing a different character of the house. 
Externally the building is prominent but it will weather and soften over time producing.

BightonGrangePaulHighnam1

Here’s the ADAM Architecture team to talk us through the scheme…

The new Villa replaces an uninspiring 1970’s house in rural Hampshire. Facing on to a quiet country lane and overlooking an open landscape, the villa is built in white brick with Portland stone dressings, and a Welsh slate roof. The design takes its inspiration from the Regency period, a time when red brick was considered to be too harsh in the landscape and there was a desire for very light interiors. In many ways this has parallels with our own time, notwithstanding the emphasis now on informal family living.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The house does not have side elevations but rather a series of fronts[/pullquote]

There is a view from the front door right through the house which gives a sense of spaciousness and a connection to the landscape. The bedrooms are placed in the four corners upstairs  and are reached by a broad landing the full width of the house, a version of a long gallery that can also be used for hanging pictures. The house does not have side elevations but rather a series of fronts, broadly symmetrical in their composition but of varying importance in the overall hierarchy of the house. The north front is seen first with its wings extending to welcome the visitor; the main garden front faces south and is more formal. The east front faces open landscape and is more picturesque in its asymmetry, whilst the west front faces a walled garden.

George Saumarez Smith: “I am delighted to get this award for Bighton Grange, particularly as it is unusual for the RIBA Awards to recognise high quality new traditional work.”

And here’s the tour…

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Images courtesy of Paul Highnam

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